Great news, Florida gun lovers: There are more places than ever to go shopping for more firearms in the Sunshine State, according to a new report. In fact, amid a nationwide boom in the weapons industry, Florida had the single largest growth in gun sellers per capita in the nation.
Data analyzed by research firm BuildZoom shows there are now 47 percent more weapons dealers in the state than there were six years ago. During the same time frame, the number of gun sellers in the Miami metropolitan area rose 48 percent.
“Both nationally and in Florida, the number of gun-selling licenses grew gradually over the six years we observed,” chief economist and report co-author Dr. Issi Romem says. “It’s so surprising that there’s such an increase. What’s driving that demand?”
Much has been written in recent years about the staggering number of firearms and dealers across the country and the uncertain implications in an age of terrorism and mass shootings. But Romem, along with research analyst Jack Cookson, thought existing research really didn't touch on how the data has changed over time. So they decided to compare 2010 and 2015 numbers of gun sellers by using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The sellers (i.e., unique business locations of gun dealers) are both physical stores and additional locations associated with people selling guns, such as those selling out of their homes.
Most startling for the researchers was just how fast the number of sellers has grown. From January 2010 to December 2015, while the U.S. population increased by 3.9 percent, the number of gun stores increased by 18.3 percent. That means the number of gun sellers grew 4.7 times faster than the population. In Florida, the numbers rose from 9.4 sellers per 100,000 people in 2010 to 13.8 per 100,000 in 2015.
During those years, Florida was the state with the largest increase in sellers, followed by South Carolina and North Carolina. Four of the top six metropolitan areas with the greatest increase in sellers were also in Florida: Tampa-St. Petersburg, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale. In Miami, the number rose from 4.9 gun sellers per 100,000 people in 2010 to 7.2 per 100,000 in 2010.
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According to state numbers, 137,941 applications were filed for firearm background checks in Florida in December alone, the highest monthly total since 2004. As of 2013, Miami-Dade had the greatest number of people with concealed weapons permits in the state, with Broward and Palm Beach the second and third.
Gun sellers have attributed the recent growth in demand both to the threat of terrorism and because buyers anticipate imminent restrictions on gun-buying, WLRN reported earlier this month.
But Romem says those arguments don't really hold up, according to the data.
“This trend in sellers is at least six years old,” he says. “I’m not aware of any dramatic increase in the need for guns or some dramatic crime wave that’s enveloped the country in those years.”