Americans are buying more guns than ever

In an unsurprising turn of events, Minneapolis has seen an unprecedented surge in gun and ammunition purchases. As reported by the Star Tribune,

As anxiety surges over COVID-19, civil unrest and an increasingly fractious presidential race, ammunition is proving to be in short supply across Minnesota and around the country as gun owners stock up and more people buy guns for the first time.

“Manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand anymore,” said Dave Bean, owner of Get Guns Now, an Oakdale gun shop. “The industry’s never been hit this hard before.”


The growing interest in guns also can be seen in the increase in Minnesota background checks over last year. According to Oliva, there were 21,899 background checks in the month of August 2019; last month’s total checks stood at 34,829, a 59% increase month over month in a year’s time.

The surge in gun and ammunition purchases began in March, as the pandemic led to panic buying and shortages of staples, like rice and toilet paper, that some feared might lead to home invasions, gun shop owners said.

George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May, and the protests and riots that followed, further stoked fears of social unrest and violence, intensifying the run on guns and ammunition for self-defense.

“[People] have seen firsthand that law enforcement is not always going to be there to protect them,” said Kevin Vick, executive vice president of Stock & Barrel Gun Club, a gun shop and range with clubs in Chanhassen and Eagan.

Dave Amon, an agent at Gunstop of Minnetonka, said demand shows no signs of slowing — especially as the national conversation around the changing role of law enforcement rages on.

“I’ve seen a lot more single moms that are scared and need something to protect them,” he said. “They’re scared when people talk about defunding the police.”

Amon pointed to another cause of the shortage: Factories can’t make as many bullets due to COVID-19 shutdowns and social distancing restrictions on the number of employees working at once, he said.

The result is a sporadic supply of ammunition. When the bullets and shells do arrive, they’re gone in a couple hours, shop owners said.

This is a trend that has been seen nationally. According to the Wall Street Journal,

Gun sales began rising to unusual highs in March, as coronavirus cases began surging in the U.S. and government-ordered lockdowns led to the highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression. The Federal Bureau of Investigation processed 7.8 million background checks for gun purchases from March to June, according to National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade group.

In June, background checks for firearms were up 136%, compared to a year earlier, according to the trade group, which gives the best proxy for gun sales. Background checks in June for civilians seeking a license to carry were the highest since the FBI began conducting checks 20 years ago.

Background checks for guns in Georgia tripled last month versus last year, according to NSSF data, and have more than doubled in Oklahoma, New York, Illinois and Minnesota.

This trend has been due to a significant increase in first-time buyers as well as buyers citing safety concerns

Craig Geske, 57 years old, said he was applying for a permit because he is afraid the police in his area aren’t able to protect him. “I don’t want to ever shoot anybody ever,” he said. “But if I had to duck and shoot back in self-defense, at least I’d have a chance.”

Dealers estimate that 40% of sales are going to first-time buyers, an increase over the normal average of about a quarter, according to an NSSF survey.

During most big sales increases, buyers tend to be gun aficionados or Second Amendment supporters. But this time, sales of handguns, which are used for personal safety, are the strongest.

Nearly two handguns, commonly used for self-protection, are being sold for every rifle or shotgun, according to federal data. In the past, the biggest surges in gun sales were fueled by rushes on AR-15 style rifles that Second Amendment activists feared might be banned by the government, such as after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012.

“With the pandemic, it’s driven more by fear for personal safety; it’s people who haven’t been interested in the past,” said Jacquelyn Clark, co-owner of Bristlecone Shooting, Training and Retail Center in Lakewood, Colo.

What this goes to show is that recent events are eroding people’s trust in the ability of the public safety system to protect them. This is bad for society because when people perceive their environments as being unsafe, they rarely invest in their communities, both socially and economically. Instead, they move or spend a lot of effort on protective services when they could focus on more economically productive activities.