Florida background checks for guns skyrocket in first days of 2021

News 6 investigators uncover a ‘run on guns’ in Sunshine State

ORLANDO, Fla. – With more than 30 years of selling guns under his gun belt, John Lassiter, of Addison’s Gun Shop in Kissimmee, has seen his industry revolve between gun-lows and gun-highs. The highs he has a name for.

“I call this a ‘gun run.’ We have been through gun runs before,” Lassiter said. “After Sandy Hook, everyone started buying up guns because they thought that might be their last chance to own an AR-15.”

[TRENDING: Manatee found with ‘Trump’ etched into skin | Carnival says 2020 bookings are strong | Here’s how to register for COVID-19 vaccine]

But never in his 30 years -- even after the Sandy Hook massacre, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas mass shooting and the 2016 election -- Lassiter said he’s never seen gun sales like he has recently.

“I had a quad-triple year last year in classes. We usually do one class a week. I was doing five classes a week, all summer,” Lassiter said.

Using data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the agency responsible for running firearm background checks for those purchasing guns, shows that in the first 10 days of 2021, background checks were up 71%. It’s not known if the surge is related the uprising at the U.S. Capitol.

For Lassiter, it is a continuing trend.

“(The year) 2020 saw more people come into the gun world -- or gun family, as we like to call them, OK, more people than ever.”

The FBI confirmed that more than 39.5 million firearm background checks were conducted last year, more than any other year since the agency started tracking numbers.

Lassiter said the the reason for the spike is simple.

“They are scared to death. They are scared to death in their own homes,” he said.

Industry leaders said the boost is driven by many first-timers: people buying guns for the first time.

“A lot of people in the firearms business say 2021 is going to make 2020 look like a normal year,” Lassiter said.


About the Author:

Award-winning investigative reporter Merris Badcock joined the News 6 team in October 2020. Merris is the recipient of a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, a Suncoast Regional Emmy Award, four Suncoast Emmy Regional nominations, and two first-place Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists’ Awards.