There’s been a lot of unrest in recent months, and politically charged events have dominated the news media cycles for years on end. It’s perhaps no surprise that gun sales across the country have dramatically increased. But what does this mean, both in the short term and for the greater gun control debate?
What’s Happening in Gun Stores?
In short, gun stores are experiencing a record boom in sales of both firearms and ammunition. For example, New York gun purchases require federal background checks, and these totaled over 61,000 in June – this was the single biggest monthly tally of new background checks since 2000, according to the background check system that’s used by the FBI.
Gun stores across the country are experiencing huge stock shortages, and not just in common ammunition types or popular firearms, like Glock pistols. In fact, people are buying up whatever guns and ammunition they can buy, and gun store owners are calling distributors and asking for more resources to keep up with increased demand.
The backlog is so intense, however, that some ammunition manufacturers don’t think that they’ll be back to full capacity until the middle of next year.
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Why Have Gun Sales Spiked?
It’s important to note that gun sales usually increase during an election year – whether this is because of some precautionary instinct or because a few extra thousand people decide to dramatically “arm up” in case their side doesn’t win (only to, of course, not actually do anything) is unclear.
But this time is different. With the COVID-19 pandemic still running strong in America and many other countries, and with the increased civil and social unrest after the death of George Floyd, it’s clear that many people feel unsafe and more “on edge” than normal.
This tracks with what people are reportedly buying more guns and ammunition for: when asked, they say they’re concerned about self-defense. There isn’t any hunting or target shooting boom occurring simultaneously. Instead, people are buying more pistols and self-defense firearms in anticipation of being attacked or needing to defend themselves.
This is likely only exacerbated by the riots that have sprouted in many American cities, including Chicago, Portland, and Washington DC. Many people, apparently, wish to have firearms for self-defense in case rioters come knocking on their doors.
Having a weapon for self-defense may even be a prudent measure, as riots are notoriously unpredictable and difficult to control. It may not matter, in the heat of the moment, which side you’re on or what your politics are. The mob, when it seeks you out, will not stop to ask questions.
What Does This Mean for the Gun Control Debate?
In the grand scheme of things, this big increase in gun sales reveals a bit of hypocrisy among liberal voters, many of whom are likely among those buying firearms for the first time, and without a lot of experience. It seems that the pro-gun attitude of “I want a weapon to defend myself” is a universal human instinct, and one that liberal folks understand all too well when their backs are against the proverbial wall.
However, whether or not the spike in gun sales and ammunition purchases will have long-term ramifications on the cultural debate about gun control is unclear. For instance, after the civil unrest eventually dies down, many people who bought guns may try to return them.
Still, pro-gun advocates would be wise to take advantage of this development and to find common ground with their political opponents. The right to self-defense is intrinsic and as American as it gets, and it’s clearer than ever before that we all feel it.