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Colorado firearm sales at record levels in pandemic

Gun sales rise more than 80% in April
Patten Guns and other shops line Main Street in Fort Morgan.

Gun sales in Colorado are up more than 80% in April, compared with the same time last year, indicating that the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a run on firearms.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation approved 97,762 firearm background checks in March and April combined, a sales volume seen only one other time in Colorado, after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The FBI reports that March was the busiest single month ever for gun background checks nationwide.

“We’ve been very busy,” said Matt Sebesta with the Family Shooting Center at Cherry Creek State Park. “Classes are huge and private lessons are up, so the majority of folks are seeking training.”

Background check turnaround times have jumped from eight minutes in February to more than three hours, on average, according to CBI. The longest checks are taking up to five days. Federal law allows dealers to release the firearm if the check hasn’t been completed within three days.

CBI has urged dealers to not do that. The surge in gun interest has led to an even larger increase in background check denials, up 200% since February.

There were 1,952 denials in April for a range of convictions and arrests. “Assault” and “dangerous drugs” are the two most common reasons.

“There are a ton of folks that have no idea how it works or think it might be expunged,” Sebesta said. “There are so many that think since they have a felony that was nonviolent that they’re OK still.”