US gun demand surges during the coronavirus pandemic

David Millward
·2 min read
Richard Albrecht, a sales associate at at Nordic Gun & Pawn - Octtavio Jones/Reuters
Richard Albrecht, a sales associate at at Nordic Gun & Pawn - Octtavio Jones/Reuters

Gun sales have had almost doubled during the pandemic with demand being boosted by first-time gun buyers.

Figures compiled by The Trace, a non-profit organisation tracking firearms sales, show that Americans bought 15.1 million guns between March and the end of September - a 91 per cent rise on the same period last year.

A year which has been marked by the pandemic and urban unrest has led to a surge in anxiety among Americans who have descended on gun shops in huge numbers.

The surge in new gun owners has been confirmed by FBI data which shows that it has already carried out more background checks in the first nine months of 2020 than the whole of 2019.

First evidence of a coronavirus weapons spike came in the 12 days which followed Donald Trump's emergency declaration in March, when sales rocketed from 92,000 a day to 120,000.

Protesters with long guns shelter from the heavy rain during a protest against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. - Seth Herald/Reuters
Protesters with long guns shelter from the heavy rain during a protest against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. - Seth Herald/Reuters

Anecdotal evidence from firearms store owners indicates that many of the first time gun buyers are women.

Gun shops also benefitted from being declared an essential business in many states during the lockdown, while other stores were forced to close.

Sudden surges in gun sales are not unknown in the US, but normally they are fuelled by events such as mass shootings with weapons enthusiasts fearing politicians will bow to demands for fresh ownership restrictions.

The election of Barack Obama, who was regarded as hostile to gun ownership, saw a surge in demand. The same happened in the run-up to the 2016 election which Hillary Clinton was expected to win.

Urban unrest has also intensified the surge in demand for weapons over the past year.

This was particularly true in Minneapolis, following the death of George Floyd. The city reported people queuing for three hours for a gun permit as the unrest spread.

The desire for weapons for self-defence was also fuelled by the demands for police forces to be "defunded."

Incidents like the killing of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery have also fuelled a surge in demand for guns by African Americans.

Douglas Jefferson, vice president of the National African American Gun Association,  said the organisation had seen membership rise faster than at any time since its formation in 2015.