CHICAGO (WLS) -- Since concerns over COVID-19 and street violence, background checks for gun buyers are at a record level.
A 61% increase during a pandemic and an economic free-fall is a good year for any industry, and in Illinois that is the percent increase in background checks for prospective gun buyers compared to 2019 - the best indicator of firearm sales.
I-Team data experts sorted through stats from the FBI and state police, the agencies that processes Firearm Owners ID cards and background checks.
Even before the coronavirus outbreak in February, the number of background checks had more than doubled from the previous year. There were new records month by month into the summer.
Dan Eldridge, the owner of Maxon Shooter's Supplies and Indoor Range in suburban Des Plaines, said many FOID applicants are looking to protect themselves and their property.
"It's people saying, I own a restaurant store, and it's all on the gulf/gold coast.. I'm worried. And it really is that fear based need to be able to take affirmative steps to defend yourself," explained Eldridge.
Illinois State Police process firearm owner ID applications and conduct background checks; ISP has added people and equipment to keep up with demand.
With demand so high right now, many popular model guns and especially ammunition are in short supply, which may explain why background checks in September were down 12% on the same month last year. Background checks have increased in Illinois each year since 2017.
"The supply of firearms, and especially supply of ammunition is so tight right now that it's hard to measure the true consumer demand for firearms and ammunition, whatever we have sells, And where we are seeing demand and what we can continue to offer great capacity, his training, and our training calendar has just gone up exponentially to where we're delivering two and three classes a day, during the week, not just on weekends, to people that want to learn about firearms," Eldridge said.
Eldridge also said it's a good sign people are serious enough about being responsible gun owners that they are willing to take training classes before they have their FOID card.
"It's gotten so bad that we've actually opened up all of our classes to be taken without a FOID card, under the supervision of a maxim students instructor used to require a FOID card for basic physical training. At this point, we don't feel that it's right to make people wait six months until the FOID card shows up to take training," he said.
A gun owners organization and two FOID card applicants are expected to file an updated federal lawsuit against the Illinois State Police on Friday, trying to force the ISP to issue gun cards within 30 days.
State police officials filed a motion to dismiss and that has been denied. The suit is being heard in Chicago.