Background checks hit an all-time monthly high last month, based on statistics just released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
State gun background checks in August totaled 185,912 -- the first time Illinois surpassed 100,000 in a single month. Last month's number was almost twice that of August 2015.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said those statistics confirm a growing trend he's seen over the past several years.
"In the last five years, we have seen the number of [Firearm Owner Identification] cards go from 1 million to 2 million," Pearson said. "The population in the state has actually dwindled in that time, but the number of card holders has doubled -- more than doubled, actually."
Pearson said it appears residents are, more than ever before, concerned about their personal safety and are taking responsibility for that safety.
"I talk to people, and they are very concerned about their personal security … when we see the number of people who call for classes, it's almost all handguns," he said. "As a general rule, people are interested in firearms for self-defense. That would be a handgun, particularly an AR-15-type rifle, because they are a very good self-defense tool."
Pearson said gun background checks seem to increase during election years, but this cycle has seen a substantial jump in transactions.
The candidacy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- this year's Democratic presidential nominee, who has taken some anti-gun positions -- is no doubt raising concern among supporters of gun rights, Pearson said.
"There's no question that almost before every election, you see a spike in gun sales...it's much more now, much more," Pearson said.