Arms sales have risen dramatically since the March shutdown of COVID-19, followed by the collapse of the economy and the unrest following the death of George Floyd.
The Brookings Institution estimates that 3 million more firearms were sold between March and June than were normally purchased during those months, with half of those sales occurring in June. To put that in perspective, that’s more guns than after the Sandy Hook shootings (just over 1 million), the San Bernardino Department of Health (1 million) and Parkland (400,000) combined.
Another big month for arms sales in September, U.S. arms stores sold an estimated 1.8 million arms, according to Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting, up 66% from September 2019.
On September 2, Jon Barker, CEO of Sportsman’s Warehouse Holdings, Inc., told investors that an estimated 5 million people would have bought guns in the first seven months of 2020, according to Reuters. Reuters also reported that Mark Peter Smith, CEO of Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc., stated on a conference call with investors a day later that “firearms neophytes are about 40% of sales this year.”
That Americans love guns is not news. We have more guns per capita than any other country in the world. The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey estimates American civilians own 393 million of the estimated 857 million civilian firearms in the world. And that was 2017, three years before the hell storm we know as 2020.
But instead of making us safer, owning a gun significantly increases the risk of accidents, domestic violence, and suicide. A 2019 study by the National Institutes of Health found that for every time a weapon was used in self-defense, there were 11 single-weapon suicide attempts, seven assaults or murders, and four-weapon accidents. It was also found that having a gun “dramatically increases” domestic violence. In a domestic violence home, having a gun made a woman 500% more likely to be killed.
An American public health study reported that a victim with a gun was 4.5 times more likely to be shot and 4.2 times more likely to be killed.
Only five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut) and the District of Columbia require gun owners to have a permit or license, according to the Washington Post. Eight others (Washington, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, and Rhode Island) require a license for some weapons. Eight others prohibit a gun register, including Idaho, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Delaware, Vermont, and Rhode Island.
At the last count, 18 states had “red flag” laws that allow the police or family to ask the state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from someone who poses a danger to others or themselves.
The talk of gun control gains traction after each mass shooting, but soon disappears into the air, along with the “thoughts and prayers” of politicians. With so many guns being sold to first-time owners who may or may not have received good gun safety training, a Pennsylvania state senator takes a different approach.
As in many other states, gun sales in Pennsylvania have skyrocketed. The Commonwealth was already ranked 11th among states in terms of weapons per capita. A CBS News study found that Keystone State’s 5.9 million citizens had 88,732 registered firearms. That corresponds to 15 cannons per 1,000 inhabitants.
Pennsylvania State Senator Andy Dinniman (D) has enacted law to ensure that potential gun buyers receive the information, training, and instruction they need prior to making a purchase. The bill is based on hunter safety courses that cover suicide prevention and other safety issues.
“Firearms possession is a responsibility,” the retiring senator told Patch. “As more and more residents want to buy firearms, we need to promote safety and the importance of measures to prevent accidents and violence. This includes not only a basic knowledge of the safe handling and operation of firearms, but also an understanding of related topics such as the legal implications, the danger of weapons in situations of mental illness, addiction, domestic abuse and how to interact safely with law enforcement agencies when carrying one Firearm. “
Robert Calandra is an award-winning journalist, author, and playwright. His work has been published in national and regional magazines and newspapers.