Gun Sales Surge In California During Coronavirus Pandemic, Study Finds

Topline

Gun sales have spiked in California during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study has found, mirroring national trends that show firearm purchases at some of the highest rates ever, largely fueled by concerns over the pandemic and recent civil unrest.

Key Facts

More than 47,000 households may have become newly gun-owning households during the first five months of the pandemic, according to a survey from UC Davis researchers.

Around 76% cited “lawlessness” as a reason they purchased a firearm—an issue that President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed is overtaking Democratic-run parts of the country, including California.

The California results mirror national increases, as some of the same researchers found in an earlier study that between March and May, there was a 64.3% increase in firearm purchases over what was the “expected volume.”

Background checks for gun purchases increased by 92,000 from March through June 2020 compared to the same period a year before, according to National Instant Criminal Background Check System data.

Crucial Quote

“Violence is a significant public health problem that has become entwined with the coronavirus pandemic,” researchers said. “Conditions that contribute to violence—poverty, unemployment, lack of available resources, isolation, hopelessness, and loss—have intensified and are further compounded by the recent surge in firearm sales, which is itself a risk factor for firearm-related harm.”

Key Background

Civil unrest has played out in cities across the U.S. over the past several months as some peaceful protests gave way to rioting. Trump has repeatedly blamed Democratic-run localities for the unrest, suggesting local officials should reach out to him for help, even as some of the violence has been escalated by far-right Trump-supporting groups. Trump has continually tried to paint himself as the “law and order” candidate, saying he will “save democracy from the mob,” and threatening that a Democratic administration will take away Americans’ second-amendment right to bear arms, even though that’s a position Democratic nominee Joe Biden doesn’t hold. Biden said at the first presidential debate last month that he supports “law and order … where people get treated fairly.”

Surprising Fact

Worry about all types of violence has increased during the pandemic, researchers found, except one—mass shootings.

What To Watch For

Researchers warn that a rise in firearm ownership will lead to a rise in violence, which will be exacerbated by the mental health toll the pandemic is taking. According to researchers, “recent research suggests an excess of 2.1 million firearm purchases during the first three months of the pandemic, corresponding with an additional 216 to 1,335 fatal and nonfatal firearm-related injuries nationwide.”

Further Reading

Trump responds to a deadly shooting in Portland by blaming Democrats — and calling for the National Guard (Vox)

Trump Praises Supporters In Caravan After Deadly Portland Protests (Forbes)

Trump escalates rhetoric on unrest in cities, looking for a campaign advantage (The Washington Post)

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