Americans bought guns in record numbers in 2020 during a year of unrest — and the surge is continuing | News Headlines
(CNN) – Gun sales in the US hit record levels last year. The largest increases in background checks for firearms overlap with months of social and political unrest, according to industry and government reports.
Nearly 23 million guns were purchased in 2020, according to Small Arms Analytics, a consulting firm based in Greenville, South Carolina.
That’s a 65% increase from 2019, when 13.9 million guns were sold, according to Small Arms Analytics.
In the absence of a national gun register, firearms industry publications and background checks are the best sources for measuring sales.
The FBI’s background checks on gun buyers increased throughout the year, but the biggest jumps – March, June, July and December – coincided with periods of political and social turmoil. Background checks do not directly correlate with the number of guns sold.
In March, the FBI conducted more than 3.7 million background checks – a month that coincided with the start of the pandemic lockdowns. That’s more than 1 million additional background checks than in March 2019.
During the riot after the police murder of George Floyd, background checks rose again, to 3.9 million in June and 3.6 million in July. This corresponds to 2.3 million background checks in June 2019 and 2 million in July 2019.
And political uncertainty after the presidential election overlapped with gun controls rising to 3.6 million in November and 3.9 million in December. This corresponds to 2.6 million in November 2019 and 2.9 million in December 2019.
The surge in arms sales continued into 2021. In January, when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol and a new administration took office, the FBI was inundated with 4.3 million requests for background checks – up from 2.7 million requests last January. These controls are initiated by arms sellers.
Background check requests slowed to 3.4 million in February, but that’s still 23% more than in February 2020.
There was also remarkable growth at the state level:
– A record number of Georgian residents received firearms background information in 2020:
904,035, an increase of almost 68% over the previous year.
– In Michigan, January background checks were up 155% from the previous January.
– In New Jersey, January was up 240% compared to January.
“It just seems like we’re living in chaos.”
Business is booming in gun shops and shooting ranges.
Syra Arzu, 38, from Atlanta, wanted to buy a Glock pistol. However, since the store was completely sold out, she decided on Smith & Wesson.
The single mother of three young children says she has never felt the need for a gun until now.
“It just seems like we’re living in chaos, and that gives me some kind of control over that mess,” said Arzu.
After Arzu got hers, her friend was convinced to buy her own. And another friend who accompanied Arzu to the gun shop picked up his new gun last week.
“So you’re welcome, arms industry,” said Arzu.
Ken Baye, owner of Stoddard’s Range and Guns in Atlanta, said he sees a different kind of customer these days: new shooters.
“We see a lot of women, a lot of couples, people with children,” he said. “We really see pretty much every area of life.”
Philip Smith, founder of the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA), says many of those who buy guns today are people who five years ago would never have imagined owning a gun. Covid-19, he says, was the game changer.
“It was something that people had, regardless of their skin color, their social background, their economic status. They said to themselves, ‘OK, if we don’t have food next week, what are we going to do to protect ourselves and ours Familys? ‘”
NAAGA is seeing steady growth of about 800 to 1,000 new members per month, Smith said.
Other recent arms sales are rising
It’s not uncommon for arms sales to go up when a Democrat wins the White House. After the election and re-election of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, there was an increase in arms sales.
The previous record of 15.7 million guns sold in a calendar year was set in 2016 when gun enthusiasts feared former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would win the White House.
Dabney Evans is concerned about numbers of other kinds: murders, suicides, and injuries. As an adjunct professor of global health at Emory University, she says studies show that more guns mean more deaths and injuries that result from them.
“If we look at the global picture, we know that we have a lot more gun ownership in the US than in any other country, and we also know that gun ownership gives us even more violence and unintentional injury.” Said Evans.
Evans says if people want to arm themselves the best thing to do these days is to wear a mask, wash your hands, and get vaccinated.
Arzu is already following this advice, but still feels better with a gun in her house that she keeps in a safe.
“It’s like a safety blanket,” she said.
CNN’s Chauncey Alcorn contributed to this report.