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The Pandemic May Have Modified Gun Ownership In America For The Long Haul


In March 2020, with the primary pandemic-related lockdowns sweeping the country, Americans were directed to hunker down of their homes. That month, they went on the largest gun-buying spree within the country’s history.

The variety of estimated gun sales skyrocketed by 80%, topping 2.3 million in a single month for the primary time, in keeping with a knowledge evaluation from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry’s trade group. Gun sales brushed against that monthly peak several times over the subsequent 12 months.

Nobody knows the true variety of gun sales, which aren’t tracked by any agency. The automated background checks required to purchase guns or apply for concealed handgun permits offer the closest proxy, though researchers and groups just like the NSSF adjust them in an attempt to differentiate between sales and license applications, or to account for the undeniable fact that a customer should buy multiple firearms with one check.

Greater than two years later, with the worst of the pandemic long over, COVID appears to have left an enduring legacy on gun sales.

There’s little doubt that gun sales have dropped, with monthly sales hovering at somewhat over half of last 12 months’s peak. Each Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson, two of the country’s largest publicly traded gun manufacturers, noted declining sales and slackened demand of their last disclosures to investors.

But Americans are still heading in the right direction for his or her third-highest gun-buying 12 months of all time, in keeping with NSSF spokesperson Mark Oliva.

Weapons on display at a gun shop in Manassas, Virginia. Gun and ammunition sales within the U.S. have skyrocketed because the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country.

Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“This is just not atypical ― after we come off those peaks, the brand new floor will typically be higher than the ceiling was prior to the height,” Oliva said. “No industry goes to remain at their peak 12 months after 12 months after 12 months. But when you take a look at the macro, you’ll see that firearm sales and gun ownership in America remain very strong.”

It’s hard to disentangle the role the pandemic played in boosting gun sales from other, less clearly understood causes that sustained sales over the next months.

Fears that against the law wave would overwhelm police appeared to drive the initial pandemic spike in March 2020, experts interviewed by HuffPost largely agreed. Semi-automatic handguns, that are closely related to personal protection and barely used for hunting, have accounted for a solid majority of sales for the reason that pandemic began, in keeping with the NSSF.

But sales also looked as if it would break latest records repeatedly on the heels of separate, if loosely related, events. The 2020 summer of protests following the murder of George Floyd by the hands of a Minneapolis cop heightened fear of crime in some communities, and stoked fear of the police in others, with each trends likely translating into rising firearm purchases.

Joe Biden, a Democrat and vocal champion of reinstituting the federal Assault Weapons Ban, toppled Donald Trump, a Republican with the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, within the 2020 presidential election. The prospect of federal gun laws typically spurs latest rounds of gun sales, as people snatch up firearms they fear might in the future grow to be illegal to purchase.

“I don’t know the way much the pandemic is playing into those 2021 numbers,” said Kelly Drane, research director with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “I believe we’d like just a few more months away from the pandemic and away from the election to essentially understand where gun sales are going forward.”

Regardless of the causes, the last two years have scrambled the traditional demographics of gun ownership, which have long skewed male, white and conservative.

Some 8.4 million Americans bought their first gun in 2020, with one other 5.4 million latest buyers last 12 months, in keeping with retailer surveys conducted by the NSSF. Retailers reported major jumps in people of color, especially amongst first-time buyers. Women accounted for nearly half of first-time gun buyers.

Mike Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works in Austin, sees those trends reflected in his customers and the scholars who come to his classes for a concealed handgun license.

“I even have mostly liberals in my class, even today,” Cargill said. “We’ve been seeing so much more of that since 2020. Loads more Black females, Black males, couples coming in buying two guns ― his and hers ― to guard themselves. I’ve never seen that occur before.”

Each the rising sales and the rise in first-time gun ownership worry gun reform advocates. Gun deaths are likely to track roughly with firearm ownership: As sales rise, deaths normally follow.

Buyers visit Bob's Little Sport Gun Shop in the town of Glassboro, New Jersey, on May 26, 2022.Buyers visit Bob’s Little Sport Gun Shop within the town of Glassboro, Latest Jersey, on May 26, 2022.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a 2020 study published in The Latest England Journal of Medicine that tracked 26.3 million gun purchasers over a 12-year period in California, male gun owners were 3 times more more likely to die by suicide than those that didn’t own guns. Female gun owners were seven times more more likely to die by suicide.

Research also shows higher risks for violence in homes with guns, especially homicides committed by men against women, in keeping with Matthew Miller, a professor at Northeastern University who studies gun violence and suicide prevention.

“Each one in every of those individuals who became latest gun owners, knowingly or not, have substantially increased the possibility that they’ll die a violent death, together with everyone else who lives with them,” Miller said. “That’s a risk that everybody who becomes a gun owner assumes.”

That correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths was borne out clearly with the pandemic gun rush. Gun deaths jumped nearly 14% in 2020, setting a latest record of 45,222. A 34% jump in homicides drove the rise, though the homicide rate remained below the last peak within the early Nineteen Nineties.

Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in July show one other spike of 8% last 12 months, with 48,832 deaths. In 2020, guns displaced automobile accidents as the highest explanation for death within the U.S. for minors. The variety of mass shooting incidents rose by 48% from 2019 to 2021, in keeping with the nonpartisan Gun Violence Archive.

Thus far this 12 months, sales have remained regular and have at times bucked historical patterns. For the past 20 years, events that raise the potential for major gun restrictions ― including mass shootings that stir debate over access to semi-automatic “assault” rifles and elections that favor reform-hungry Democrats ― have normally tracked with a jump in gun sales.

However the mass shooting in May that left 19 students and two teachers dead at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, didn’t register as a spike in estimated sales. Neither did the talk and passage of the primary major gun reform laws in a generation in June, or an ongoing wave of state gun restrictions passed in response to mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, Latest York. The midterm election has not, to this point, coincided with an increase in gun sales.

Still, sales have remained high, even in the event that they haven’t followed historic patterns for spiking after certain events.

“It’s not as busy because it was in 2020 with the pandemic,” said Cargill, the gun shop owner. “Nevertheless it’s still busier than before.”

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