Gun sales are up. Again.
It tends to happen every election season, especially when a Democrat challenges and wins the presidency, according to shop owners and industry observers. The pandemic and nationwide protests in 2020 fueled people’s willingness to buy guns or stock up on ammunition, experts say.
“People are worried for their safety,” said Andi Turner, the legislative director for the Texas State Rifle Association.
Calls for defunding the police, the new president and the pandemic are making people rush to gun stores, Turner said.
At Intrepid Shooting Sports in Fort Worth, ammo shelves are wiped clean and some gun racks are empty.
“Pretty much every election season is like this,” said owner Chris Mayhall, who’s been in the gun industry for about six years.
Mayhall said his sales doubled in 2020 compared to 2019, and he has seen a lot of first-time buyers. By August, there were about 5 million new gun owners in 2020, according to a National Shooting Sports Foundation report.
The Black Lives Matter protests over the summer prompted many gun sales, he said.
“People that live 60 miles away from any kind of population center were buying AR-15s because they were really worried that there was going to be some mob headed down there,” he said.
This rise in sales has caused a nationwide shortage, he said. Guns aren’t plentiful, ammo is scarce and manufacturers have told him they have enough orders to fill in the next three years of production.
“People can buy ammo and shoot ammo faster than they can make it,” Mayhall said.
In 2020, the FBI conducted 39.6 million firearm background checks, an 11.3 million increase from the year before. In Texas, there were 2.3 million background checks with the most conducted in March, at the beginning of the pandemic, an 838,069 increase for the state.
Former President Barack Obama’s election in 2008 sparked a buying spree as some feared he would start a war on guns, said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.
And with President Joe Biden, it’s no different, he said.
“People are very concerned that their rights are going be taken away from them,” Mayhall said.
Biden wants to end what he calls the gun violence epidemic by banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, according to his policy.
But changing gun laws would be a slow process, giving people more than enough time to purchase guns, Jones said. And any new law likely wouldn’t result in a radical change, Jones believes.
The increase in gun sales has also caught the eye of gun safety groups such as Brady United Against Gun Violence, which advocated for gun safety and ending gun violence. Kris Brown, the president of the organization, said the group advocates for stricter background checks, banning weapons of war and holding the gun industry accountable among other things.
While Brown said these are the organization’s priorities, it is important that people understand the group does not want to take people’s guns away, but rather advocate for safety, especially among first-time buyers.
For those who bought guns in the last year, Brown pleads they practice with safety and consider their families and communities. The best way to practice gun safety is to keep the gun stored, unloaded and ammo in a separate box, she said.
“Please consider the unintended consequences,” Brown said.
Turner, who keeps her eyes on pro and anti-gun bills introduced in the Texas Legislature, said guns are tools and proper training is needed to safely handle guns, but she doesn’t believe in banning assault rifles. If anything, there needs to be more money put into mental health resources, she said.
“It is the person who is handling the tool that decides whether the tool is dangerous or not,” Turner said.
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