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With Guns Flying Off The Shelves, Firearms Sales Nationwide Could Set Records In 2021; 'Can't Keep Stuff On The Shelf Long Enough'

UPDATED 05/27/21 4:38 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Guns are flying off the shelves, with political change and social unrest contributing to the rise, according to the ATF.

CBS 2 has tracked the uptick for more than a year now, and have learned sales continue to soar, on pace to break records this year.

CBS 2's Tara Molina reports prices are surging, and some guns are backordered in Illinois. That's what she heard from gun store owners and experts in Illinois, and it mirrors what she learned from the FBI, who said background checks related to gun sales are up for the second year in a row.

Nestled in an industrial park in Lombard, you'll find Article II Gun Shop & Range, but if you're in the market for something specific, you might not find that right now there or elsewhere.

Manager Anthony Colonna said, with demand at an all-time high, they and their suppliers just can't keep up.

"I can't keep stuff on the shelf long enough," he said. "It's almost like the vultures on the wire. They're sitting there looking at us. They've got something and they swoop down and take it. Doesn't last very long."

Some guns are backordered. He couldn't even say how long.

And what's in stock can come at a premium, with ammo prices way up.

"I still get something from my vendors, but not 10 cases that I need for this week. I get 10 boxes," Colonna said.

The uptick in gun sales is keeping people like Daniel Conidi – an instructor and security expert with a Homeland Security background – busy.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the times we are in," he said. "We are having an unprecedented amount of interest in firearms, firearms training, firearms ownership than anytime that I've ever seen in 30 years plus."

With a new group of people interested in owning a gun, in the past few months, Colonna said "a lot of elderly people are coming in for firearms."

That's not something he saw before.

Colonna's focus? Safety and training for first-time owners.

"I'm big on education and big on practice. That's my two biggest things," he said.

According to the FBI, there were almost 16 million background checks for firearm purchases from January to April; a 31% increase compared to the same time last year.

If this sales pace continues, 2021 could surpass 2020, when a record 21 million guns were sold in the United States, more than double the purchases we saw twenty years ago, according to the National Sport Shooting Foundation.

The Illinois field office of the FBI provided specific information on gun sales in the state in a follow-up on Thursday, May 27. They referred us to a breakdown of statistics by state, month, and year and noted that Illinois saw the following number of firearms checks requested during the first quarters of the last three years:

• January to April 2021: about 4.2 million
• January to April 2020: about 2.5 million
• January to April 2019: about 1.3 million

Other relevant statistics are available here.
A spokesperson for the ATF said the increase in gun sales based on political and social change isn't uncommon.

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