Inside The Minds Of New Gun Buyers

Millions of Americans, some of whom may have never so much as handled a gun before, are now gun owners. They weren’t really interested in guns before, but with the COVID-19 pandemic breathing down their necks, they recognized all the ways things could go south in a hurry. So, they rushed to gun stores and bought firearms.

But, for the most part, a lot of our insights into their motivations have been based on second-hand conversations and speculation. We just haven’t had much of a chance to glimpse the mind of these new gun owners directly.

Now, we can, thanks to the Boston Globe of all people.

Bill Biewenga said he had considered buying a gun for years. A former US Marine, the 72-year-old had been in rifle club in high school, and about 18 months ago, he and his partner, Laurie Warner, even applied for and received their firearm licenses.

But it wasn’t until the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic that he actually decided to try to buy one.

“We’re not radical wing nuts,” said Biewenga, who contacted a Hyannis gun shop this month about buying a Mossberg 590M 12-gauge shotgun and ammunition. “But we do believe in being prepared.”

As COVID-19 has upended everyone’s day-to-day routines, anxiety has rushed to fill the void, be it fear of losing one’s job or stockpiling toilet paper. Even in Massachusetts, home to some of the nation’s strictest firearm laws, others say they’re weighing something else: whether to buy — or trying to buy — a gun for the first time in this uneasy reality.

Less than 17 percent of Massachusetts residents who responded to a recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll said they owned a gun. But of those who don’t, about 1 in 7 said they now wish they did.

That’s something like 14 percent now wish they owned a firearm. However, when added to the under 17 percent who already own a gun, you end up with a quarter of all Massachusetts residents who either have a gun or wish they did.

And the reason is clear. They want to be prepared.

Look, while anti-gunners seek to mock those buying guns or blame the NRA for supposedly fueling hysteria, the truth is that far too many people understand that, right now, we simply don’t know how bad things are about to get. There’s concern over the economy and our food supply on top of the fear over the virus. All of this adds together and while the government might get it right, there’s a whole lot of ways they can get it wrong as well. Only a complete fool would just assume all would work out great.

Biewenga said that they’re not “radical wing gun nuts,” whatever the hell that means, but that they “believe in being prepared.”

That desire to be prepared isn’t something that should be mocked, ridiculed, or discounted. It should be applauded, even by people who don’t necessarily share their other values.

The question then becomes, how many other people will follow suit before all is said and done and just how many had a more difficult time than Biewenga because they didn’t just happen to have a license handy when the time came?