Estimations are that up to 2.6 million guns were sold in the US in March. So what has got Americans buying firearms in record numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Politicians across the globe have described the coronavirus crisis as a metaphorical war against the COVID-19 disease, but it seems many Americans are literally preparing for battle.
While consumers worldwide have rushed out to buy food and household items in bulk, panic buying in the United States has also extended to the purchase of guns, sales of which have skyrocketed over the past few weeks amid the worsening crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In March 2020, the FBI conducted a total of 3.7 million firearm instant background checks, the highest number since the Bureau began such checks in 1998.
Using this FBI data, U.S. media have estimated that up to 2.6 million guns were purchased in March alone (an 85% increase on the same period last year), with Illinois leading with close to 500,000 purchases, followed by Texas, Kentucky, Florida, and California.
Meanwhile, Ammunition website Ammo.com recently said it saw about a 1,000% increase in firearm sales in Colorado, Arizona, and Texas since late February.
Coronavirus: Why are U.S. gun sales surging?
So what has Americans rushing to stock up on guns during a coronavirus pandemic? Well, fear of disruption to social order is one main factor, with concerns over the imminent erosion of fire, police and health services.
Such concerns will lead to increased fears over looting, violence and burglaries, which has prompted many first-time buyers to purchase guns as a means of self-defence should law and order break down. According to media reports, a substantial majority of those buying firearms over the last month have been first-time gun owners.
Another reason, as pointed out by Georgia State University law school professor Timothy Lytton, who spoke to the BBC, is concerns over the national government infringing on freedoms such as gun ownership.
Like many governments worldwide, the U.S. government has already curbed such liberties as the freedom of movement and limited what people can buy, which has led to fears that the Trump-led administration could extend measures to restrictions on the sales of firearms. As a result, many Americans have rushed to buy firearms before such measures are implemented.
Gun control advocate concerns
The surge in the purchase of firearms, and particularly those made by first-time buyers, has alarmed many gun control advocates, who are concerned about the potential rise in the number of gun-related suicides, which is the cause of approximately two-thirds of US gun deaths each year, and other gun-related violence and crimes.
“We need to prepare for the increased risk of more firearms in untrained hands,” David Chipman, a senior policy adviser at Giffords, a leading gun violence prevention expert, said in a statement last week.
“If you didn’t think you needed a gun prior to March of this year, you certainly don’t need to rush out and get one now.”