Ever since the pandemic was clearly going to be a pandemic, we watched as gun sales increased exponentially. Millions of Americans went and bought guns. To make matters even more interesting was that despite the media telling us more and more Americans wanted gun control, most of the gun buyers were first-time customers. They were people who’d never owned a gun before in their life, but now wanted something.
A summer and autumn filled with riots did nothing to quell the unease people felt, nor their desire to arm themselves. Couple that with concerns about the election and it’s no mystery that guns were rolling out the door as fast as stores could get them in.
Yet there are some misconceptions about just who all are buying those guns, even now.
The firearm industry surveyed gun retailers this year to find out just who is buying these guns and why.
Astonishingly, 40% of those buying guns today are buying one for the first time in their lives. Before 2020, these individuals never owned a gun. Across the nation, that equates to nearly 7.7 million people. Here in Maryland that’s over 109,000 of us.
Today’s gun buyer isn’t the stereotype critics would have Marylanders envision. Of those people buying guns in 2020, 40% are women. The largest demographic increase is among African Americans, who are purchasing guns at a rate 58% higher this year than in 2019.
Why are gun sales so popular this year? The survey that identified just who is buying guns this year also asked that question. Overwhelmingly, the answer came down to a single word — safety. Marylanders, like the rest of America, took responsibility for providing for the safety of their family and themselves. This year gave them plenty of reasons to make that decision.
In March, firearm sales spiked to their highest month on record. More than 2.3 million background checks were conducted for a gun sale then, which was also the same month COVID pandemic measures set in. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a State of Emergency and “Stay at Home” Executive Order that same month. Police were triaging 911 calls to reduce exposure to infection, and some officers were pulled from duty because they’d tested positive. In May, our nation witnessed the horrific death of George Floyd. The protests that arose morphed into rioting and looting. Rioters burned and vandalized property, including a police union hall in Baltimore. Some elected officials openly called for defunding police departments and several actually did so, literally taking the tools of community safety away from the people who needed them the most.
That’s a fair point. For all that 2020 has been, it’s also been an object lesson in why one should have at least one gun, if not multiples.
Further, the overall point about just who is buying those guns stands. The truth is that new gun owners come from across the socio-economic spectrum and may have lasting ramifications on the gun debate for decades to come. As black Americans are preached to about the evils of police and how everyone wants them dead, it’s no surprise that more than a few are out there buying firearms. They should, especially if they fear being targeted for a hate crime or something of the sort.
The truth is, guns are no longer all about middle age white dudes with pickup trucks and a wad of tobacco in their mouth. They never actually were, mind you, but that’s what people had in mind when you talked about gun owners.
It’s well past time to drop that stereotype and recognize that guns cross all such boundaries.
Now, if only we could make politicians realize it.