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US firearms sales surge through pandemic

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 2:23 PM EDT
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(CNN) – Robin Armstrong just bought her first gun.

Like millions of other Americans, she’s part of the country’s surge in gun buying.

“I bought a Springfield XD 9mm,” Armstrong said. “That’s my first one, but I do plan on buying two more.”

America is on a gun-buying spree.

“We’ve seen record numbers for the past few months, and I fear that’s going to continue,” said Jack McDevitt, a criminology professor at Northeastern University in Boston.

A count of FBI pre-sale background checks shows a pattern:

  • March 2019: 2.6 million
  • March 2020: 3.7 million
  • March 2021: Nearly 4.7 million

The March 2021 numbers are the most in a month since the FBI started counting more than 20 years ago.

Why now?

One reason: pandemic panic.

“I think it’s the perfect time to get a weapon for yourself,” said Dirk Zhang, who bought a gun in March 2020.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation says 40% of gun buyers in early-2020 were first-timers.

“Up until now, let’s be honest, when you said gun owner, the first thing to pop in your mind probably an older white gentleman or a younger white gentleman,” said Philip Smith, the founder and president of the National African American Gun Association.

Now, it’s a different story.

In 2020, half of all buyers were women, according to the Northeastern University & Harvard Injury Control Research Center. A fifth were Hispanic and another fifth were Black.

According to Smith, “2020 was by far the most growth we’ve ever seen.”

The murder of George Floyd played a role, as did the protests that followed. Both prompted fear and had more people reaching for protection.

“People don’t trust the police as much as they used to,” said McDevitt.

And then there’s the rise of white nationalism.

“Some of the fringe groups that were on the fringe that were now mainstream, our community saw that and they’re like, ‘You know what, I’m going to get a gun because I see these folks and these folks, truly do not like me,” Smith said.

Since then, there’s been an election and an insurrection. The result is more political polarization and fear.

For her part, Armstrong looks forward to a time where she feels she doesn’t need a gun anymore.

“I do hope that, but I don’t feel that’s going to happen any time soon in my lifetime,” she said.

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