Minnesota is a fairly anti-gun state. It’s an anti-gun state, though, with a lot of rural areas where people take up things like hunting and shooting on the regular.
It’s an interesting mix, though far from an unusual one. A lot of people there like guns despite what the state’s politics might suggest.
And since the pandemic, it seems a lot of guns have been bought there.
Close to 1.5 million guns have been sold in Minnesota since the start of the pandemic, according to a new Reformer estimate based on the latest background check data from the FBI.
Those numbers reflect a surge in gun purchases at the height of the pandemic, and the gun buying has yet to subside fully. And it came directly on the heels of a smaller spike during the Obama administration, when worries about new gun control proposals — most of which failed to come to fruition — prompted waves of panic-buying.
The trend data show that gun sales in Minnesota increased modestly in the first decade of the 2000s. But that changed during the Obama administration, especially in the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook mass school shooting in 2012. Fears of new gun restrictions prompted panic buying across the country, and Minnesota was no exception.
Sales didn’t return to their pre-Sandy Hook baseline until Donald Trump’s second year in office in 2018. But they rose again in 2019 and exploded in 2020, when fears of social breakdown at the dawn of the pandemic prompted another round of fear buying.
For most of the 21st century, sales of long guns, which include rifles and shotguns, outpaced sales of handguns in Minnesota. But the pandemic purchasing wave inverted those numbers, as handgun sales tripled between 2018 and 2020. That reflects a growing concern for self defense, as opposed to more traditional pursuits like hunting and target shooting.
Now, the sale of long guns being a thing for a long time there isn’t shocking. Outdoor sports are big there and have been for decades. I get that entirely.
But while they keep talking about the pandemic, they’re not talking about much of what actually may have driven a lot of those guns being purchased: The aftermath of George Floyd.
Minneapolis exploded as did a lot of other places, but because George Floyd was killed in the Twin Cities, it’s unsurprising that many looked at what was happening and figured the police might be a tad busy for a little while.
Others probably figured that if the police were going to just kill people, as many people saw it, calling them for a problem might result in the wrong person being killed.
This was followed by talk of defunding the police in Minneapolis, which would in turn impact a lot of the rest of the state. The police just didn’t respond to a lot of crimes quite the same way they used to.
So people bought handguns in increasing numbers because they couldn’t trust the police to save them anymore.
The fact that this happened during the pandemic is almost incidental in Minneapolis. Or, more accurately, it probably would be were it not for the overall spike in homicides during that same time. Couple that in with the factors unique to the largest city in Minnesota and you have a recipe for a lot of guns getting sold in the state.
Where that gets interesting is if these new gun owners start becoming gun voters as many do.