DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – New data CBS 17 obtained from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office shows that the number of pistol permit transactions spiked in 2020, but has since dropped down again. 

Data shows that in 2019, there were 2,524 pistol permits delivered, but that number rose by 300 percent in 2020 when there were 7,026 pistol permit transactions made. 

The number of pistol permits delivered in Durham County dropped down to 3,585 in 2021, and so far this year, there have been 1,187 pistol permits purchased. 

To help new gun owners better secure their firearms, on Thursday morning, the Durham County District Attorney’s Office as well as members of law enforcement and the Durham County Department of Public Health, handed out 200 free gun locks outside the Durham County Courthouse. 

“We know that gun safety is a big issue, not just because there’s gun violence on the street, but because we know people steal guns from cars, and if there’s a situation of domestic violence, a gun can make that escalate,” Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry said. 

Deberry said she wanted to hand out these free gun locks in order to help new gun owners keep these guns out of the wrong hands.

In the city of Durham, gun thefts have risen 16 percent since 2019.

In 2021, 417 firearms were stolen in the city, and 228 of those guns were taken from motor vehicles, according to data from the Durham Police Department. 

“If you are a gun owner, please be responsible, keep your gun locked and in a safe place,” Deberry said.  

At Tar River Arms in Wake Forest, owner Kurt Lieberman said that his gun store saw a spike in firearm sales in 2020 and also said this lasted for nearly two years. 

“Right before COVID, for about a year and a half, we barely had guns on our wall, we couldn’t keep them,” Lieberman said. 

Lieberman said gun sales have gone back down since the pandemic, but have not gone back up in the wake of the recent mass shootings.  

But Lieberman also said they have seen a steady pace of new gun owners come in for firearm training in the last two years. He said they have seen so much of an increase, that they are opening up a new training range in Youngsville this summer. 

CBS 17 asked Lieberman what percentage of gun buyers get training on how to use a firearm. 

“It’s a lot,” Lieberman said. “It’s more than 50 percent I would say.” 

Lieberman said every gun they sell comes with a free gun lock, and while training is not required, he said it’s something he encouraged new gun owners to do. 

“In a moment of crisis and in a moment of panic, that training is important, it’s key,” Lieberman said.