According to the latest estimates from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, more than seven million Americans have become first-time gun buyers in 2020, a staggeringly high number in a year already full of shattered records for firearm sales. The NICS data for October, released on Monday, suggests that another 1.77-million firearms were sold at retail in October, which is yet another monthly sales record, and for the year-to-date, it’s estimated that there have been more than 17-million guns sold this year, far higher than the 13.2-million firearms sold in all of 2019.
To put this into some perspective, the estimated 7-million new gun owners in the United States just since January is more than five times the size of our active duty military, which stands at about 1.3-million service members. The number of new gun owners is about ten times larger than the number of law enforcement in the United States, and is about seven times the estimated number of all gang members in the United States.
In other words, seven million new gun owners is a pretty staggering figure, and one that could reshape not only the firearms market in the years ahead, but also has the potential to influence the gun control debate in the immediate future. As we’ve noted previously, many new gun owners don’t fit the conservative stereotype, and even liberal publications like NYMag are beginning to recognize the impact that gun owners on the Left can have in the gun control debate.
“You can’t say you’re for civil rights and have a civil right you’re absolutely interested in curtailing,” says Lara Smith, the spokesperson for the Liberal Gun Club, an organization founded in 2008 that provides gun-skills courses for as little as $10 a year and has 4,500 members. She says that Democratic lawmakers are totally ignorant when it comes to how guns actually work.
In keeping with national trends, Smith says Liberal Gun Club membership has grown a lot in the past year. “People are really concerned about this particular ultra-right-wing threat they’re perceiving,” she says. “I can’t tell you the number of friends of mine who have always [thought of me as their] ‘crazy gun friend’ who have called me and said, ‘I want to buy a shotgun. I want to buy a handgun. Where do I go?’” She has been hosting beginner shooting lessons in her backyard to meet the increased demand for gun skills that the pandemic and the upcoming election have inspired.
As opposed to understanding firearms as the primary cause of gun deaths in the U.S., the Liberal Gun Club is interested in investigating “root-cause mitigation,” or, what causes violence beyond the easy access to deadly weapons. “If you don’t understand how the tool works, then you don’t understand what problem you’re solving or not solving with it,” Smith says, noting the ineffectiveness of AR bans.
Liberals get “everything” wrong about guns, Adam Selvage, a truck driver who lives in Albuquerque, told me. He started the Facebook page Pro-Gun Democrats in 2012 after going out shooting with his then-girlfriend; they got to talking about how they were the only people they knew who were “incredibly liberal and still like shooting.” At the beginning, his page had likes in the single digits, but eight years later, it has upwards of 2,500 followers and has sprouted a Facebook group where members can chat privately about firearms.
Many of his fellow Democrats, Selvage says, have a negative view of guns “because they know what they see on TV, and the guns on TV are illegal in the United States, for the most part. They get scared because they think guns are just used for killing people.”
The size of the pro-gun groups on the Left can’t compare to the size of organizations like the NRA, Gun Owners of America, or the Second Amendment Foundation, but the numbers are growing, and that’s a very good thing. As we’ll be discussing on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, no matter who wins the presidential election, the fight over our right to keep and bear arms is going to be fierce in 2021, either at the state or federal level, and the millions of new gun owners can play an important role in protecting their newly-exercised rights, even if it’s lobbying their fellow Democrats to turn away from gun bans and licensing laws and address violent crime through things like “root-cause mitigation.”