The coronavirus has changed almost every aspect of American life, and the firearms industry has been no different. In fact, it has seen major changes.



Turmoil always seems to increase gun purchasing. Every election year and crisis that occurs causes people to purchase guns in fear of what might change. 2020 has shaped up to be a very unique year in this sense with the COVID-19 pandemic being one of the major catalysts.

With election cycles, people fear what legislative changes may come. With the coronavirus however, the fear has been about more physical threats related to civil unrest. At the start of the pandemic, this public fear was evident. People were purchasing enormous amounts of goods in fear of shortages. Stories arose about people buying items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and canned food by the truckload. While most could not afford to order trucks of supplies, it seemed that many were panic buying to one degree or another. People were not sure if the daily supply chain would remain functional. It seemed that supplies were already running low, and people didn’t know if the coronavirus would affect workers in vital industries. Assuming the supply chain became strained and people were struggling to acquire basic necessities, civil unrest was also on peoples’ minds.

The data coming out seems to suggest that the first half of 2020 saw an 80% increase in gun sales over the same time period in 2019. This data was gathered by looking at the FBI’s background check statistics of people purchasing guns. There are many reasons for the surge. For one, the fear of looting over supplies seemed prescient. If food becomes harder to obtain at the supermarket, many feel more comfortable being able to hunt for their own food. Then, there was fear that looting might follow any food scarcity that occurred. Specific fears aside, there has been a lot of uncertainty regarding the future, and people want to be prepared in the face of the unknown.


First-Time Gun Owners

While the numbers of gun sales goes up every election year, a look into the demographics of buyers suggests that the increase has more to do with 2020’s unique climate. Data compiled by the NSSF suggests that around 40% of the recent gun sales has been to first-time gun buyers. While people buy their first firearms every year, the increase in new gun owners strongly suggests a fear that has not usually been present in the previous years. This clearly suggests that the coronavirus has been the driving factor behind the uptick in gun sales.

Among these first-time buyers, many of them seem to be liberal. Liberals who previously haven’t felt the need to own a gun are starting to realize the importance of being able to defend oneself. Gun buying seems to up among minorities as well. The age-old thinking among gun owners, that citizens have the right to be armed in case of threats to life and liberty, seems to be making its way across the aisle. Asian Americans especially have been increasing their gun buying. The reasoning is pretty obvious. At the beginning of the pandemic, many Asian-Americans, Chinese or not, faced discrimination and harassment based on the color of their skin. Some were foolishly blaming them for the spread of the virus based on nothing but their race. This increase in discrimination has given many Asian Americans plenty of reason to want to defend themselves.


Fuel to the Fire


Election cycles tend to correlate with increases in gun sales. Much of the increase in gun sales we saw earlier this year seem to be attributable to the coronavirus pandemic. As the election approaches, and the possibility of a president who isn’t friendly to gun rights approaches, these numbers will likely continue to grow. It is also hard to separate the potential impact of the riots that have been occurring. Some people see what is occurring across the country and are worried about what the increase in tension might bring. Calls for defunding the police and for releasing prisoners due to the coronavirus pandemic have been driving some to the gun store for the first time. While it is unclear to what extent recent developments may affect crime, the uncertainty about the proposals is enough to cause concern for many. Perhaps the most important aspect is that all of these factors have come together at once.


The uncertainty is definitely not over. The pandemic is still around, and who knows what the second half of the year might bring. Gun sales will likely continue to rise throughout the year. One positive takeaway from the situation is that the public’s perception of guns may shifting in a more favorable direction, at least for the time being.