Guns for sale at Gator Guns & Pawn in West Palm Beach, Florida on October 7, 2020. People are buying more guns with fears over the pandemic and protests nationwide. (GREG LOVETT / THE PALM BEACH POST)

More than 1 million people in Florida requested background checks to purchase firearms during the first nine months of 2020, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Greg Stephens and Alex Shkop have met a few of those seeking firearms in the biggest rush since 2016. The West Palm Beach-area gun store owners said their businesses have seen brisk sales over the past seven months, many from buyers out to purchase their first firearm.

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Stephens, the owner of Gator Guns & Pawn in suburban West Palm Beach, estimates that since March, he has sold twice as many guns as he did in all of 2019, with about 80 percent of sales involving first-time buyers.  

“People I sell guns to all the time, they already have guns. They’re not looking to go out and protect themselves. They have what they need to protect themselves now,” Stephens said.

“Since March 1, to now I’d say about 80 percent of them are new buyers. I’ve got to teach them how to load the gun.” 

Shkop, the owner of Guns and Range Training Center in the city of West Palm Beach, said he has seen a