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Why Millions of Americans Keep Buying Guns (And It’s Not Who You Think)

Gun Sales
Image: Creative Commons.

Lawmakers in the Empire State may be doing what they can to erode the Second Amendment rights of its citizens, but New York State still saw sales of firearms for 2021 that were the second-highest on record. According to data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), there had been more than 425,778 firearm background checks conducted in the first 11 months of 2021 – completely surpassing the pre-pandemic gun-buying levels of 2019, which had set the record for gun sales to that point.

Nationwide, firearm ownership has become increasingly diverse as women accounted for 40 percent of all sales nationwide, and purchases by African Americans increased by 56 percent compared to 2019.

Newly released data from Northeastern University also found that the pandemic may have played a role in how more Americans have exercised their Second Amendment rights – despite the best efforts of some lawmakers. Research from Matt Miller, a professor of health science and epidemiology at Northeastern University, found that an estimated 7.5 million U.S. adults became first-time gun owners over the 28-month span straddled the start of the global novel coronavirus pandemic. The study, which was conducted between January 2019 and May 2021, found that 5.4 million of new gun owners had been living in homes without any firearms.

“New gun owners are more likely to be Black and they’re more likely to be female,” said Miller.

Surge Before the Pandemic

Other studies have suggested the number of first-time gun buyers from last year could be as high as 11 million – and that doesn’t take into account those individuals who may have made a purchase at a gun show or similar event, where the NICS may not have come into play.

The sales of firearms certainly surged at the start of the pandemic, but the increase continued, following the wave of violent protests that occurred during the summer of 2020 and again after the election of Joe Biden. His calls for new gun control after taking office in January 2021 had further resulted in an uptick in gun sales. Thus, it could be argued that the pandemic was simply one factor among many.

The changing demographics also show that firearms are not merely owned by older white males anymore.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) had noted last summer, “Since the surge in gun-buying began at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, those in the firearms industry and the news media have made two important observations: 1. The increase in gun purchasing included many first-time gun buyers; 2. Those purchasing firearms did not conform to stereotypes about the typical American gun owner.”

Miller has also been among the researchers who have warned that the increase in gun ownership could result in a detectable increase in the number of suicides, or that new gun owners could even put others in the household at risk. However, he and other researchers have often failed to track or even consider how the firearms could help provide protection to those worried about the large spikes in crime in parts of the nation.

Yet, as The reported, “While, guns statistics are notoriously difficult to apply to real life events, the increase in gun sales doesn’t necessarily suggest a rise in violent crime, or necessarily a rise in accidents and suicides.”

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.