Firearm sales skyrocketed in Virginia last month amid fear that Democrats who now control the commonwealth's General Assembly will restrict gun rights.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia recorded the second-most ever firearm sales last month.
Estimated firearm sales based on mandatory criminal background checks on Virginia gun buyers totaled 73,849 last month, a 47% increase over December 2018.
In tracking data that goes back to 1990, the December 2019 tally is second only to December 2012, when 75,120 transactions were recorded. Criminologists say that was triggered by the repeal of the state's one-handgun-per-month law and fears of increased gun restrictions following the Dec.14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 students and six adults.
Firearm store owners who spoke with the Times-Dispatch confirmed that the sharp increase in firearms sales is directly related to fears that Democrats will curtail gun rights.
"If Virginians feel threatened that their rights are being curtailed, they're going to react just the way that you've seen. Everyone down here is upset. I've never seen more customers antagonized by a situation," Robert Marcus, the principal owner of Bob's Gun Shop in Norfolk, told the newspaper.
Jerry Cochran, owner of one of Virginia's largest firearm shops, similarly said, "A lot of people that have never owned a gun think they won't be able to get the style of gun they want [if the proposed restrictions become law], so they're buying."
The most popular items being bought include those that would be impacted by proposed gun control legislation, including many semiautomatic rifles often labeled "assault weapons," such as AR-15s, and high-capacity magazines.
Thousands of pro-gun demonstrators are expected to descend on Richmond on Monday in an effort to persuade Virginia lawmakers to drop their push for increased gun control.
Officials have taken precautionary measures to prevent any violence that erupts, including closing roads, tightening security, and banning firearms on state capitol grounds, Fox News reported.