Raleigh, N.C. — Americans have purchased 18 million guns this year, making 2021 the second-busiest year for gun sales, trailing only 2020, in the past two decades.
Locally, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office has issued 35,256 pistol purchase permits so far this year. Again, that trails only the 57,528 permits issued in 2020.
The rush to obtain a firearm was evident at the permit office inside the county Public Safety Center on Thursday.
“I was over there a while ago. It was standing room only,” Sheriff Gerald Baker said.
Raleigh resident Marilyn Wilson said she never thought she would own a gun. But she waited in line Thursday for a concealed carry permit.
“I was never going to, but my husband, David, was going to, and I was like, ‘You know what, let’s do it,'” Wilson said.
Applications for concealed carry permits are at a five-year high, at 17,742, up from 10,991 in 2018.
Wilson and others cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest and a general unease as reasons to be armed.
“Someday, you may want to protect yourself” from “just the craziness in the world,” Wilson noted.
Rob Maungyoo, the owner of Clayton Guns, said 2020 was his busiest year ever for gun sales, especially that summer, when protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota became violent.
“People were afraid,” Maungyoo said. “People wanted to protect themselves. They got permits [and bought] long guns and shotguns.”
The biggest concern for law enforcement isn’t the surge in gun sales, however. Instead, it’s the rising number of incidents of illegal gun possession.
Raleigh police have had 236 such cases so far this year, up from 190 in 2020.
Baker said legal gun owners must do their part to keep their weapons out of the hands of criminals.
“The unlawful seek to get those weapons through those means of breaking into cars or into houses,” he said.
Baker said he would like to see longer wait times and more training before people obtain guns. He said he also believes parents of juveniles found in possession of guns illegally should face stiffer penalties.