REASON.COM – January 7, 2021 – Joe Biden will enter the White House this month at the head of a political party that in recent years has been overtly hostile to self-defense rights, even to the point of advocating impossible-to-enforce bans on popular firearms.
But the opportunity has passed for the restrictions he peddles as “common sense reforms.” In an era of political instability and distrust in government, Americans of varying political beliefs are purchasing guns in record numbers. And those millions of new weapons and their owners are bound to remain beyond the reach of politicians’ wish lists of restrictive laws.
Nine of the ten busiest weeks ever for the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)—which performs background checks for most firearms purchases from licensed dealers—occurred in 2020. While background checks don’t directly correspond to gun sales since they can be used for other purposes or for multiple simultaneous purchases, they’re an important indicator. The year ended with a total of 39.7 million background checks, the highest annual count recorded.
The “why” of the surge in firearms purchases is no secret in a year that seems drawn from the plot of an apocalyptic novel. January of 2020 opened with a politically polarized population and the news that “nearly six in ten Americans agree that there will be protests or rioting in the United States over the next year in response to how the country is being run,” according to Ipsos pollsters. They were right, though for unpredictable reasons.
Chaos got a boost when the COVID-19 pandemic dropped by for a visit in late winter, prompting prosperity-killing lockdowns and protests against the same. Many people were furious at the federal government’s conduct and/or their state governments’ policies.
With people already tense and at each other’s throats, police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other black Americans sparked demonstrations and riots against law enforcement abuses. In some cases, police were overwhelmed and told members of the public they would have to defend themselves. Along the way, many Americans lost faith in law enforcement officers. “Confidence in the police fell five points to 48%, marking the first time in the 27-year trend that this reading is below the majority level,” Gallup noted.
The cops’ ultimate bosses aren’t too popular, either. “For years, public trust in the federal government has hovered at near-record lows,” Pew Research found. “That remains the case today, as the United States struggles with a pandemic and economic recession.”
So, Americans bought guns. And they weren’t just adding to existing collections—many are new owners.
“Retailers reported an increased number of first-time gun buyers, estimating that 40 percent of their sales were to this group,” announced the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a trade organization, in June. “This is an increase of 67 percent over the annual average of 24-percent first-time gun buyers that retailers have reported in the past.” [full article]