Background checks for long gun purchases in California hit yearly highs in July and August as the industry braces for stricter gun laws come 2017.
Data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System shows long gun checks spiked 26 percent in July, totaling 47,594 applications — the highest level seen in the the state since December and a 71 percent increase over July 2015.
NICS pegs August as California’s second most active month for long gun checks so far at 43,552 applications, up 61 percent over the same month last year.
Background check statistics serve as a measurement of gun sales across the country. The most recent NICS data for California mirrors reports from local gun retailers who credit the state’s impending ban on “bullet buttons” for spurring the sales boom.
Christopher Lapinski, operations manager at Last Stand Readiness & Tactical in Sacramento, told local news outlets he’s noticed more customers looking for weapons with “bullet buttons” — a magazine quick-release mechanism operated with a small tool — before the expanded laws take effect in January.
“They call it a bullet button because you would use a bullet to eject this magazine from the magazine well here,” Lapinski said during an interview Monday with Fox 40. “The whole anti-gun movement, taking guns from citizens, literally has everyone and their grandmother buying firearms before they can’t get them anymore because they want to be able to be protected.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill July 1 outlawing guns outfitted with bullet buttons as part of a package of legislation drafted in response to the Dec. 2 San Bernardino mass shooting.
Federal investigators told the Los Angeles Times two of the five weapons recovered at the scene where suspects Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik allegedly killed 14 people and injured 21 others were equipped with the devices.
Gun control advocates argue closing the bullet button loophole in California’s assault weapons ban could prevent future mass casualties.
“My goal in signing these bills is to enhance public safety by tightening our existing laws in a responsible and focused manner, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Brown said in a July signing message.
The National Rifle Association, however, lambasted state lawmakers for exploiting a terrorist attack in order to pass “draconian” gun laws that make gun owners “second class citizens.”
Bullet Button, the California-based company responsible for inventing the original device, has already manufactured a tool designed to circumvent the impending law. The “Patriot Mag Release,” which requires opening the receiver before detaching the magazine, became available just days after Brown signed the new measure.
The company posted an undated message on its website warning customers of delayed shipping times due to high demand.