Firearms Sale: The Great American Gun-Buying Binge Continues


Handguns on display at the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nev., in 2013. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun/via Reuters)

Americans purchased over 2 million firearms in January, 2021, a 79 percent spike over January 2020. It’s the third-highest one-month total since the FBI began running NICS background checks. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, three of the top ten weeks and ten of the top single-day historic highs in gun purchases occurred this January.

CNN attempts to tie the spike in gun ownership to the Capitol riots: “Gun sales in January set a new record after Capitol Hill insurrection.” But the binge has been ongoing for nearly a year. As one gun-shop owner in Chicago put it last week: “It’s the busiest you could ever imagine. It’s been lines around the block, out the door, around my store every day since March.” March is when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and when Americans likely began feeling like they were losing control of their lives. A bigger spree came during summer, as left-wing riots erupted around the country, and national Democrats began to entertain the idea of defunding the police.

Anti-gun activists often argue that ownership numbers are artificially inflated by knuckle-draggers who hoard firearms. In 2007, Gallup reported that 44 percent of Americans lived in a gun-owning household. In 2019, that number remained at 44 percent. Most gun owners are not exactly what you’d call “sharers,” so the number is likely higher. We do know that in 2020 there were 8.4 million first-time gun buyers in 2020. Among them: an unprecedented number of African Americans and women, who accounted for somewhere around 40 percent of all first-time buyers. The numbers would likely be even higher if demand weren’t causing shortages.

We’re in the midst of the greatest expansion of gun ownership in American history. There have been other surges — in the 1950s, for example, interest in hunting and sports shooting led to a resurgence in gun ownership — but the contemporary gun owner isn’t buying rifles for deer hunting; the majority are buying semi-auto handguns for personal protection.

Democrats have already begun floating attacks on the Second Amendment. There’s a House bill introduced by Texas representative Sheila Jackson Lee that would publicly list the names of all gun owners and require every gun owner in America to undergo a psychological examination. Though it’s unlikely to pass, Joe Biden has embraced, and surrounded himself with, gun restrictionists. So expect this surge to continue into the year.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun






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