A recent report from the non-profit organization thetrace.org found that gun sales went up drastically by 66% between March 2020 and April 2021.
According to the statistics, which can be backed up by similar weapon sales and background check figures from the FBI, around 920,000 handguns were bought by Californians in those 14 months, with long guns such as rifles and shotguns also showing significant increases. Many of the buyers were also first-time buyers, with the FBI reporting hundreds of thousands of background checks on gun owners. During one particular stretch from March 2020 to September 2020, 462,000 background checks were performed, an increase of 209,000, or 83%, from the March 2019 to September 2019 span.
The pandemic was the main catalyst for the rise in sales, with sales remaining high during the 14-month period due to numerous protests occurring in June of last year and concern over new firearm and ammunition legislation. Handgun sales alone shot up from 35,570 in February 2020 to 81,543 in March 2020 when pandemic restrictions were first placed, with long guns also spiking from 26,866 to 53,657 during the same two months.
Overall, 365,000 more handguns were sold during March 2020-April 2021 compared to the previous 14 months, with long guns showing a 183,000 increase in sales. April 2021 sales figures showed that gun sales were overall waning, but have remained higher than pre-pandemic figures. In April 2018, California recorded 37,814 handgun sales, with sales remaining nearly identical a year later at 37,484. However, the pandemic bumped sales up to 59,219 in April 2020 before dropping down to approximately 48,500 in April 2021.
Nationwide, sales also climbed dramatically, with around 1/5th of all gun buyers being first time owners.
Many gun experts noted that the increase in gun sales, particularly in states such as California that have passed gun control measures in recent years, have shown that need for protection amid times of uncertainty.
“Every outlet is reporting that spikes are happening, but they aren’t giving reasons besides ‘coronavirus’ or ‘riots,'” Dallas-based firearm researcher Reggie Ashburn told the Globe on Tuesday. “What it comes down to is that people saw on the news people panic buying and many services being reduced and everything changing quickly. Many felt the need to protect or to have some control and sales went up.”
“Then the George Floyd protests happened and riots erupted, and again, the issue of protection came up. Both times, getting a gun was something the buyer could do to feel safer and to get at least some control back with everything else spiraling out. Those on the right will tell you it was for one thing, while those on the left will say it was for another thing. But I’m speaking as someone who needs to give as unbiased an opinion as possible in research, and really what it came down to was people wanting to feel safer during a time of change.”
“That’s why you saw such huge jumps out in California. I had to do search analytics in California in April of last year, and one of the top gun results was about how to get the Handgun Safety Certificate. Another was asking how long the waiting period was. It was easy to tell that a lot of these buyers weren’t the traditional gun enthusiast, but first-time buyers who wanted a gun for protection purposes.”
Other experts put it more succinctly.
“Wave upon wave of uncertainty and concern are driving firearm demand,” said chief economist at Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting Jurgen Braue.
Firearms sales are expected to remain higher than usual for the near future due to many pandemic-related regulations and concerns still remaining.