MAINE, USA — Mainers are buying guns in record numbers.
In 2020, the FBI received more than 137 thousand requests for gun background checks---compared to a little more than 90 thousand in 2019.
The numbers also show 40 percent of those customers were first-time gun buyers and women.
Mary Bunnell of Auburn is one of them.
"For me it's safety, it's all about safety," said Bunnell.
Bunnell is single and lives alone.
"I want to be able to be in a situation where I can take care of myself, protect myself."
Bunnell bought her first gun in July. She wanted a second handgun for training. But had to wait months to get it due to high demand.
"I ordered it in July and it finally came in this past December."
Bunnell is among millions of first-time buyers. According to NSSF, the trade association for the firearm industry---more than 5 million Americans purchased a firearm for the first time in 2020. And making up 40 percent of those first-time gun purchases---women.
"I tend to get a lot of older women and men in the class who typically may have never handled a firearm," said Kelly Stewart, the owner, and instructor at Foothills Fire Arms Safety in Sumner.
Stewart says 135 people took her classes this summer. This winter she's busy with private lessons. She says her clients are from all walks of life, many looking to protect themselves and their families.
"They're very intent on learning proper procedure and learning about safety," said Stewart.
"This is Maine, anything can happen just like in any other area of the country. I'm here to protect myself" said Bunnell.
Firearm sales typically increase during a presidential election year but the pandemic and this summer's civil unrest have only added to the record surge.
"While gun sales continue to surge we're pleased to acknowledge the continuing decline of violent crime. says Brett Bulmer with Gun Owners of Maine. Bulmer says "it has long been our position that there is no negative correlation between high gun ownership and violent crime, and our own state of Maine, with one of the highest rates of firearms ownership per capita, remains the safest state in the nation."