A new study from the University of California-Davis Firearm Violence Research Center is shedding some light on how the dual effects of the pandemic and widespread civil unrest this year are impacting Californians’ views on their right to keep and bear arms. This isn’t the work of pro-Second Amendment researchers, by the way. Garen Wintemute, the study’s primary author, is a longtime gun control activist and advocate, but even he’s been forced to confront reality: there’s been a tsunami of new gun owners all across the state of California this year.
Nearly one in four respondents reported that they or someone else in their household owned firearms; 15.2% of respondents reported that they were a firearm owner. Among owners, 2.4% reported that they had acquired a firearm in response to the pandemic, while 8.5% of owners, including all of those who had acquired a firearm, said that they had purchased ammunition in response to the pandemic. Among those who had acquired a firearm in response to the pandemic, 43.0% reported that they did not already own a firearm. Extrapolating to the population of adults in California, we estimate approximately 110,000 Californians acquired firearms in response to the pandemic, including 47,000 new owners.
Those numbers actually seem a low to me, though we did see gun stores in Los Angeles, San Diego, and the Bay area closed for at least a number of weeks back in the spring, which may have artificially suppressed some gun sales. Still though, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that through September there’ve been an estimated 907,713 background checks for firearms in California (compare that to 808,788 background checks for all of 2018).