Handgun sales in California have risen to unprecedented levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts say first-time buyers are driving the trend.
The FBI conducted 462,000 background checks related to handgun purchases in California from March through September, an increase of 209,000, or 83%, from the same period last year. That’s more than in any other seven-month period on record.
People who study gun ownership think the increase means more people are buying guns for the first time. Handguns, as opposed to rifles and shotguns, are often the first firearm purchase made by someone looking for protection.
Background checks related to long gun or other gun sales also rose statewide, by 110,000, or 54%, from March through September compared with the same period in 2019. While that increase is steep, it does not match the rise in long gun sales seen in California during periods, often following mass shootings, when state leaders have considered legislation to sharply rein in access to military-style assault rifles.
In California, background checks for handguns and long guns correlate with gun sales, federal and state data show. Other states have purchasing systems that can result in a disconnect between background checks and sales.
Even so, the national numbers are startling: The FBI conducted about 7.7 million background checks related to handgun sales from March through September, an increase of 3.9 million, or 104%, from the same period in 2019.
Gun rights activists, gun control supporters and public health experts largely agree that the increase in gun sales is driven by fear, uncertainty and longing for a greater sense of protection. [full article]
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