Florida sees surge in holiday gun shopping
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida gun dealers saw a sharp increase in sales as shoppers flooded stores the day after Thanksgiving.
With 8,300 background checks conducted Nov. 28, the traditional start of the holiday shopping period, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement recorded the third-busiest day ever for gun sales in the state, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said.
The Nov. 28 purchases trailed only the sales for two days in December 2012, which came after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Bailey said.
"We did roughly 23,000 sales Thanksgiving week," Bailey said Tuesday after addressing the Florida Cabinet. "On a normal week, we do about 14,000 background investigations on those sales."
The boost in sales followed the Nov 24 announcement that a grand jury would not indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, a decision that touched off widespread protests. Also the increase came after Florida State University graduate Myron May opened fire Nov. 20 in the lobby of the school's Strozier Library, wounding three people before being fatally shot by police.
Bailey called the spurt in sales a product of the traditionally busy shopping day.
"I can tell you Newtown had a dramatic increase," Bailey said. "It's too early for me to say if Ferguson has had an increase or not."
National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer deferred comment when asked about the reasons for the boost in sales.
"The American people strongly believe in their God given right to self defense and know that they are responsible for their own safety and security," Hammer said in an email.
Mark Folmar, owner of Folmar's Gun and Pawn in Tallahassee, said Wednesday that he hasn't heard any of his customers say they were buying guns due to Ferguson or the Florida State University shooting.
Folmar added that his customers typically buy guns at the holiday season and at the start of hunting season.
"The majority of our gun sales are to people who already own guns," Folmar said. "They are the biggest market because they like them. The person who owns three is just as likely to buy a fourth as the person who is going to buy a first one."
About 3 percent of people applying for gun purchases in Florida are initially denied while at the retailer, Bailey said. However, many of those individuals are eventually able to purchase weapons after providing additional information, he said.
Bailey's comments came as the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence released a report that said background checks on gun purchases have blocked 2.4 million sales to dangerous people since the inception of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
"Brady background checks save lives. Brady estimates that they have blocked some 358 purchases every day to dangerous people," Brian Malte, Senior national policy director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a release. "Unfortunately, in the majority of states, criminals and other people not allowed to own or buy guns legally are still able to avoid background checks by making purchases online or at gun shows."
Bailey said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been able to cut the time to conduct background checks.
The on-hold time was about 10 minutes in the days after Sandy Hook. For the Nov. 28 sales, the background check time was down to about 1 minute due to legislatively approved staffing increases and the introduction of an online system for retailers to file applications, Bailey said.
As of Nov. 30, there were 1.337 million concealed-weapon or firearm licenses issued in Florida, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The state went over the 1 million mark in December 2012, becoming the first state in the nation to surpass that figure.
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