MAINE, USA — Newly released data shows that more and more Mainers are buying guns, at a rate rarely seen.
The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, looked at how many requests for gun background checks were submitted to the FBI.
In 2019, there were more than 90,000 requests from gun dealers. Compare that to the more than 64,000 requests made in the first six months of this year.
Why the surge?
Historically, gun sales go up during a presidential election year, fueled by fears that whoever gets elected could restrict gun laws, but this year there are several reasons for the uptick.
The pandemic, protests over racial inequality, and the defund the police movement have all contributed to an increase in sales.
"They want to take control of their own story and not rely on outside resources," said Adam Copp CEO of Howell's Indoor Range and Gunshop in Gray.
Back in March, with reduced hours and only curbside pickup, Howells was selling close to 40 guns a day. That trend has continued into the summer months.
"40 percent of new gun buyers have been women and we're seeing a ton of people who happen to live alone purchasing firearms," said Copp.
Copp says they're seeing a diverse group of people, particularly for Maine, purchasing firearms.
"Every group, every gender, every race everybody is coming in and it's awesome."
Gun buyers are also taking training classes.
"We can't add classes to our schedule fast enough and we're seeing sold out new shooter classes and private lessons booked for months," said Tatiana Whitlock, Howell's Director of Training.
"Since COVID, we have seen a lot of people take personal responsibility for their own safety."
Whitlock and other instructors are working long days to help people be responsible gun owners.
"The firearm itself can't do its job if you don't possess the requisite skillset and safety knowledge to be responsibly armed."
And it's not just individuals, Whitlock says they're seeing a lot of families coming in for training. To learn what it means to live in a house with a firearm.
"So as a family unit we are educating sometimes 3 if not 4 generations on firearms safety, safe handling, and safe storage."
These are unprecedented numbers during an unprecedented time.