Local News

Gun permits soar during pandemic

Posted January 13, 2021 4:06 p.m. EST
Updated January 14, 2021 11:39 a.m. EST

— In a year marked by a pandemic, violent protests over racial inequity and a highly partisan election, thousands upon thousands of handguns were bought in the Triangle.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office issued 57,791 pistol purchase permits in 2020, almost four times the 15,465 issued in 2019, spokesman Eric Curry said Wednesday. In fact, he said, the number of permits issued last year was more than the permits issued in 2017, 2018 and 2019 combined.

"We understand the need and the desire," Sheriff Gerald Baker said. "We understand the fear that some people have due to the unrest and protests."

Baker said he keeps the office that handles permit requests open late three nights a week to keep up with the demand.

"We’ve brought in additional staff to continue to try to meet the needs. It all boils down to the fear that many people have come to feeling like they needed permits to purchase weapons and wanted them right away," he said.

Other Triangle counties saw similar spikes:

  • The Durham County Sheriff's Office issued 6,582 pistol purchase permits last year, up from 2,524 in 2019, spokeswoman AnnMarie Breen said.
  • The Orange County Sheriff's Office issued 4,271 permits in 2020, up from 1,531 the previous year, spokeswoman Alicia Stemper said.
  • The Johnston County Sheriff's Office issued 15,613 permits in 2020, up from 5,867 in 2019, Capt. Jeff Caldwell said.
  • The Chatham County Sheriff's Office issued 4,275 permits last year, up from 2,688 in 2019, Lt. Sara Pack said.
  • The Harnett County Sheriff's Office issued 9,246 permits in 2020, up from 3,604 the previous year, Maj. Aaron Meredith said.
  • The Lee County Sheriff's Office issued 2,138 permits last year, up from 761 in 2019, authorities said.

Baker asked that people remain patient, as the typical 14-day wait for a permit request to be approved may be longer due to the number of requests.

“There is a 14-day period that normally takes place, but when you start looking at the number of requests and background checks and everything that comes with the process and you look at the number, then that automatically tells you that there’s no way you’re gong to be able to get it that fast,” he said.

Allen Jones, co-owner of AJ Guns in Knightdale, said his store can't keep enough guns in stock.

"In 36 hours, we sold 18 AR rifles,” Jones said. “The problem is, you can’t find parts, you can’t find any guns. We normally have five times that amount [of current inventory] in. We just can’t find them; our wholesalers are out.”

Jones said he believes that current societal circumstances are leading to the influx.

“It’s not that people are going crazy buying guns. It’s just people feel more comfortable in the current environment that they have a gun," he said.

Kevin Johnson, co-owner of Eagle 1 in Raleigh, agrees with Jones.

"2020 was probably one of the craziest years in the gun business," Johnson said. "We had people who didn’t believe in guns buying guns, and then you had a huge influx of women that bought guns.”

Clay Ausley, owner of Fuquay Gun & Gold, said that, while this is true, there's never really been a rush on firearms quite like this.

“2020 was an absolute whirlwind. We saw a little over a 300% increase in 2020 over 2019,” Ausley said. “The gun industry has never seen a run anywhere near this extreme.”

The number of concealed carry permits also rose in Wake County last year, from 10,039 in 2019 to 15,579. Chatham County also saw a rise in concealed carry permits, while Durham and Harnett counties saw their numbers drop. Figures for other area counties weren't available.

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