CNN, June 2021
Robin Armstrong said she’s had a phobia of guns since her brother was fatally shot, but that hasn’t stopped her from buying a Springfield XD nine-millimeter handgun. “I’m practicing as much as I can, and I’m just trying not to be nervous around it,” said Armstrong, who plans to buy two more firearms: an AR-15 rifle and a smaller handgun she can carry concealed. Armstrong, who is Black and lives in the San Francisco Bay area, cited “things that were going on in the country” like social injustice and her safety as the reasons for her new found interest in guns. She is just one of many Americans either buying a gun for the first time or adding to what they already own, leading to a surge in US gun sales that started last year and is continuing strong in 2021.
There is no government or national database of gun sales, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation keeps track of pre-sale background checks, an indicator that’s been soaring to record highs. In March, the FBI reported almost 4.7 million background checks — the most of any month since the agency started keeping track more than 20 years ago, and a whopping 77% increase over March 2019. It’s first-time gun owners like Armstrong who are adding to the upswing in gun ownership.
More than 2 million of the March background checks were for new gun purchases, according to the National Shooting Sports Federation, the firearms industry trade group that compares FBI background check numbers with actual sales data to determine its sales figures.About 40% of buyers in early 2020 were first-time buyers, according to the foundation. In 2020, half of all gun buyers were women, researchers say. One-fifth were Hispanic, and one-fifth were Black, according to the Northeastern University & Harvard Injury Control Research Center. It’s women and people of color, like Armstrong, who are helping gun sales surge around the country.