Attendees inspect and purchase handguns at a firearm show. Gun sales have shot to record highs in 2020, spurred by fears of Coronavirus and civil unrest. (Photo by M&R Photography/Creative Commons)

Another month of Coronavirus, economic ruin, and protests has come to pass. Amid growing speculation that Donald Trump could lose a second term to Joe Biden and his incredibly anti-gun policies, July created another perfect storm that saw gun sales jump to new highs. The FBI says it conducted more than 3.6 million background checks for gun purchases, making it the third highest month on record for gun sales since NICS went online in 1998. By comparison, the FBI ran just over 2 million checks in July 2019.

This explosion in gun sales comes on the heels of consecutive record-setting months. More than 3.9 million background checks flooded into the FBI in June, marking a 145% increase over last year’s sales. That was preceded by 3.7 million checks conducted in March 2020. Gun sales have, unsurprisingly, remained elevated through the entire year. The Brookings Institute estimates that 19 million firearms have been sold in 2020, providing one gun for every 20 Americans. Around 176,000 firearms were sold in a single day at peak frenzy. Still more numbers spell out that 2020 is a different year for Second Amendment rights. It’s not just record gun sales that are reshaping the narrative of the Constitution in modern America.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that approximately 40% of new gun purchases have been first-time buyers with a 58.2% increase in purchases during the first six months of 2020 going to black men and women. Groups like the Black Gun Owners Association have reported momentous spikes in membership interest and online traffic since the protests over George Floyd’s death began. “Whether it was fear of a food shortage, lack of a grocery store, the short response times for law enforcement or whether people were just fearful they were going to be attacked, I don’t know,” said Derrick Morgan, national commander of the Black Gun Owners Association, to Politico.

Dave Brown, a media producer in Dallas, said he decided to buy his first gun in May after he saw people smashing windows at a restaurant near his home. He said violent demonstrators remained in the area until 2:30 am. By noon the following day, Brown had bought a handgun for $450, plus $100 in ammo to learn to shoot. “This is a time where no one knows what’s going to be happening around town the next day, it feels like,’ said Brown, 41. “So a lot of people are uncertain, a lot of them are scared.” In Virginia, where politicking by Democrats has created massive tension over Second Amendment rights, Bob’s Gun Shop owner Rob Marcus says his sales have tripled since mid-March. He reports 35% of his sales are coming from first-time gun buyers, with many customers saying they’re motivated to purchase out of concerns sparked by Coronavirus, protests, and potential gun control legislation.

That new demographics and Americans with traditionally left-leaning political views are not only recognizing the need for Constitutional rights but are exercising their Second Amendment rights may signal a change in how the nation approaches gun control. Even while Joe Biden and Kamala Harris champion for a new version of the failed assault weapon ban on the campaign trail, millions of new gun owners in voting districts that often paint themselves blue could mark a shift in direction for gun rights.

“This period of sustained firearm purchases clearly shows that Americans continue to take responsibility for their personal safety, especially during times of uncertainty,” said Mark Oliva, public affairs director for the NSSF, citing civil unrest and calls to de-fund law enforcement as leading factors in driving gun sales. The anti-gun lobby also voiced its opinion, attributing the rise in gun sales to unethical marketing tactics by gun makers. “It is clear that gun companies are fearmongering to sell guns, which is dangerous and wrong at a time when the threat of gun violence is on the rise and hospitals are overflowing with patients,” said Rob Wilcox, deputy director of policy and strategy at Everytown for Gun Safety.

If gun companies’ fearmongering is driving sales, then Everytown for Gun Safety has a disconnect in messaging its constituents. The anti-gun organization receives millions of dollars in donations from liberal think tanks, blue politicians, and other left-leaning donors who are also championing civil rights, police reform, and now the right to bear arms. Time will tell if the expanding base of new gun owners forces Everytown and other anti-gunners to spend more on their messaging.

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