RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia gun sales increased by nearly 11 percent and reached an all-time high in 2013.
The Virginia State Police logged background checks for nearly 480,000 gun transactions last year, topping the old record of just over 432,000 set the year before, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Friday. State police began doing the criminal background checks in late 1989. The 2013 results were released Thursday.
Police said gun sales were especially brisk early in the year. Transactions for the first four months were up 115.8 percent, 38.5 percent, 41 percent and 28.4 percent.
Gun sales on Black Friday also set a record, but overall sales in November and December dipped from 2012 sales for those months.
"While 2013 was another record-setting year for gun transactions, the rate of growth slowed from previous years," noted Thomas R. Baker, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government Affairs. He specializes in criminology theory and has an interest in gun-related issues.
Virginia, for instance, saw a 16 percent increase in 2011 and a 34.6 percent increase in 2012, but only a 10.8 percent increase last year, Baker noted.
"In fact, for the first time in the past three years there was a decline in gun transactions in four months in 2013 from what we saw in 2012," Baker said. "This may be a signal that concerns over restrictions are beginning to wane or that those concerned about increased restrictions have made their purchases."
With Democrat Terry McAuliffe the governor-elect, however, another gun-buying surge could occur, Baker said. McAuliffe favors increased gun restrictions.
President Barack Obama's re-election in 2012 and the fears of increased gun restrictions after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut in December 2012 have driven gun sales, dealers have said.
Andrew Goddard, is a leading gun control advocate in Virginia, said the gun industry has used fear mongering to drum up sales.
"At what point will gun owners realize that they are being duped into artificially boosting gun sales for no valid reason?" asked Goddard, president of the Virginia Center for Public Safety and the father of Virginia Tech student who was severely injured in the April 2007 campus massacre.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said buyers have simply responded to control advocates who have exploited "the blood of dead children."
"Anytime you threaten to ban guns, to make more restrictions, all you're going to do is make sure there are far more guns out there than if you just kept your mouth shut," he said. "The other side hasn't learned this."