First-time gun sales shot up to record levels this year as more Americans armed themselves in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and massive civil unrest — and a heated and contentious presidential race that some fear could erupt in violence.
Gun industry analysts and trade groups say first-time purchases for firearms skyrocketed to more than double the national average from past years, with 40 percent of all gun sales this year attributed to newbie owners.
Jon Barker, CEO of Sportsman’s Warehouse Holdings, estimated that 5 million people bought firearms for the first time in the first seven months of 2020, while the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System said activity through the end of September is up 41 percent this year over the same period in 2019.
In all, the 28.8 million background checks through the end of September already surpassed last year’s record total of 28.4 million — with eight of the top 10 weeks ever for background checks taking place this year.
The busiest week came after the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic in March and the top month for background checks was in June, in the wake of the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
“People who don’t normally think about firearms are being forced to contemplate something outside their universe,” Dan Eldrige, owner of Maxon Shooter’s Supplies and Indoor Range in Des Plaines, Illinois, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, stocks for the country’s two top gun manufacturers — Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger — have risen by 131 percent and 59 percent, respectively, adding to a national arsenal that already dwarfs the rest of the world in guns.
According to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, the US had 393 million guns in 2017, with India the second highest with 71 million and China in third with 50 million, both with four times the population.
Experts said Black Lives Matters protests and riots, as well as the threat of violence pending the outcome of the presidential race have fueled the rush for more Americans to arm themselves.
“With everything going on around us, you see a need,” said 44-year-old Fishkill, New York resident Andreyah Garland, a first-time gun owner.
Garland said she makes three trips a week to Walmart for scarce ammunition.
With Post wires