Gun sales spike in Greenville and across the country

Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 9:29 PM EDT
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Gun sales have spiked nationally and in Eastern Carolina. According to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, the FBI ran 71% more sales-related background checks in April of this year, as compared to last year.

That percentage shows the national increase, and locally the increase is being reported by sales at some gun businesses.

Employees at pawnshops like Jolly’s Pawn Shop in Greenville said they saw a local increase when protests began in the East following the murder of George Floyd. Floyd was the African American man whose murder was publicly videoed as police held him face-down on the street, handcuffed, with a police officer's knee pressing down on his neck.

Robert Savage, with Jolly's Pawn Shop, said he can't keep ammo on the shelves. He said firearms and ammo have been hard to keep in stock.

Savage said, "Nine millimeters; one of the popular rounds that are out here in Greenville that everybody seems to be buying up. ARs are the same thing—going off the shelf pretty easily."

Data from the Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting showed almost two million guns were sold in April. Savage said there was already a surge when the coronavirus pandemic began, and then another when the protests for George Floyd started.

"As soon as the COVID stuff started up, everybody started to do a little bit of a panic-buy,” Savage said. “And then, everything going on now, in Greenville and everywhere else, it's picked right back up."

So, what's motivating Greenville residents to buy guns? Savage said his customers tell him they want to protect their families.

"A lot of them are just nervous, scared. So, they're just trying to make sure they've got their family safe. And I can't blame them because that’s the same thing I’d do,” said Savage.

Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram said he sees these numbers fluctuate all the time.

Ingram said, "It comes and goes in spikes anytime people feel threatened. Gun permits, gun sales go up."

Ingram said those firearms license requests are already up, and the month just started.

"We've had 38 people apply for gun permits since June the first. On average, we normally do, maybe, 35 to 40 in a week. Back in May, we did 186. April we did 167,” Ingram said, “Concealed carry—we had 23 people, either renewing or applying for new ones, since June the first. Back in May we only had 58. April, we had 78.”

Ingram said if the rise in sales is truly in response to the recent protests and if you feel the need to protect yourself, you do have the right but do not hesitate to call the police first.

“We ask them to do it peacefully. For the other people, if they feel threatened to call law enforcement. Not all law enforcement's bad, just like all protesters are not bad,” said Ingram.

Ingram also said he's proud the city of Kinston had a peaceful protest two days ago, and they're working to keep protests peaceful.

NCIS data also showed that more than 18,000 long guns were sold in our state in May. That makes North Carolina the third highest state in the category of long gun sales behind Michigan and Texas.