The Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee this morning held a work session on Senate Bill 554, which would allow public bodies to prohibit concealed weapons permit holders from bringing their guns into public buildings.

As with any proposed gun legislation, the bill generated strong feelings from supporters and opponents of placing limits on guns.

Behind the heated rhetoric around SB 554 are statistics from the FBI that show Oregonians' interest in owning guns rose sharply last year and continued unabated in January.

Here, according to FBI statistics, are the number of background checks conducted on prospective gun buyers in Oregon for each of the past five years. (Not every background check results in a purchase, but because checks are only conducted when a buyer seeks a gun, they are a good proxy for gun demand.)

2015: 276,126

2016: 324,708

2017: 341,167

2018: 359,682

2019: 357,700

2020: 516,096

On a percentage basis, the number of background checks conducted on Oregonians jumped 44% in in 2020 and the number of checks done in the first month of 2021—49,755—was higher than all but one month in 2020 (that was March) and is a 57% increase from last January's total.

Gun sales often spike around elections and in times of turmoil so the increases fit historical patterns, although the unrest over the past year may have contributed to the larger than normal increases.