Toilet paper and hand sanitizer may have been on most panicked shoppers’ minds in March when the novel coronavirus pandemic first hit the United States. But as bare as those shelves might be, they have nothing on guns.
Doubtless inspired by the apocalyptic view of vacant streets across the nation, Americans rushed out to buy guns at an astonishing rate: Some 1.9 million guns were sold in March, trailing only the mad rush after the Sandy Hook shooting in January 2013 for sales in a single month.
While most previous spikes were driven by fears of imminent gun restrictions (which never materialized), the March sales were apparently fueled primarily by fears of social breakdown related to the COVID-19 virus’ lethal effects. The sales were matched by a 41% spike in background checks, according to the FBI.
Buzzfeed reports that the surge is unprecedented, with retailers reporting rates that appear likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Gun shops saw a surge in sales not only of guns but also body armor and other tactical gear, reportedly driven by a desire by “preppers” to secure their homes and families.
“I think with the way things have escalated quite quickly around the world and in the US in just the last couple of weeks, it's very hard to tell what's going to happen next,” Kevin Lim, owner of the tactical gear retailer Bulletproof Zone, told Buzzfeed.
However, some of the surge is also a result of nontraditional gun buyers—particularly Asian Americans—seeking more security. According to KUOW-FM, gun sales in King County, Wash., have been driven by large numbers of new owners, including members of the LGBTQ community, seeking to protect themselves with weapons.
Most of that fear is related to reactionary violence around the novel coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the Asian American community. Hate crimes against Asians—inspired by political rhetoric blaming China as the source of the pandemic—have also significantly spiked in the past month.
However, traditional gun-nut paranoia is the primary driver in the spike in gun sales. Alan Gottlieb of the far-right Second Amendment Foundation—which has filed multiple lawsuits against state-ordered closures of gun shops across the country—told the Washington Free Beacon that he was not surprised by the surge.
"This is no surprise," Gottlieb told the Beacon in an email. "With a major uncharted health crisis that could result in a collapse of social order. With criminal inmates being let out of prison. With attempts to shut down gun stores and close down the ability of people to obtain firearms and ammunition for self-defense, [this is] what you would expect."
Posted with permission from Daily Kos