The narrative on guns in the U.S. has taken a dramatic shift in 2020 amid a global pandemic and civil unrest that led thousands into the streets in protest.
While the future remains unclear, leaving many Americans wondering what the remaining months of 2020, an election year, have in store, there is one thing that seems rather certain — the argument in favor of gun control just got a little murkier. With the National Shooting Sports Foundation reporting 40 percent of gun purchases coming from new gun owners, this year has seen previously anti-gun supporters jumping the party line to grab a gun of their own.
Second Amendment Foundation founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb told Guns.com that COVID-19, coupled with rioting, led many Americans to reevaluate their stance on the Second Amendment.
“The pandemic as well as the rioting and looting have been a driving force in the record number of first-time gun buyers. Many of which were on the fence when it came to gun rights,” Gottlieb said.
Chris Gayler was one such gun buyer. Previously identifying as anti-gun, Gayler said that he was a staunch supporter of talking points like bans and limitations on the types of firearms and accessories gun owners could own. Now, he says, he better understands why guns are vital.
“Before 2020, I supported a ban on assault rifles. I wanted magazine capacities reduced, red flag laws, comprehensive background checks, things like that,” Gayler told Guns.com. “I don’t think I really did my full due diligence in doing my research.”
Gayler said the riots, looting, and increased tensions between civilians and law enforcement lead him to purchase his first AR-15, a Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II, online. “Now, I fully support the Second Amendment,” he explained. “I think it’s become abundantly clear to me that I’m the only person that I can rely on for my own self-defense and personal protection.”
Mark Oliva, NSSF’s Public Affairs Director, previously told Guns.com that more and more Americans are coming to the same realization as Gayler, which is pushing more first-timers into the welcoming arms of gun retailers.
“Civil unrest, rioting, looting, and calls to defund police are unquestionably motivating factors of why this trend is increasing,” Oliva said. “Americans are right to be concerned for their personal safety. It’s entirely reasonable that law-abiding citizens are exercising their Constitutional right to purchase a firearm to protect themselves.”
Raven Primm’s family fell into the above subset, looking to buy a gun after supplies dwindled as a result of COVID-19 panic buying. Primm told Guns.com that, while her family stocked up prior, the fear that desperation might drive others to break into their home lead the family to purchase a handgun. Primm said before COVID-19, she favored gun control measures, going so far as to say no gun would live inside her home.
“I have always been what people would call a ‘bleeding heart liberal,’ and I normally take that as a compliment,” Primm said with a laugh. “Having a gun in the house has never been something that I would allow. They’ve always scared me.”
As the pandemic unfolded in the early months of 2020, though, Primm said her opinion on guns changed as she saw supplies in stores dwindling and news reports of desperation rising.
“My husband watches a lot of news, from both sides, and he was saying how people were scared and that there might be a lot of break-ins, so there’s the fear that someone’s going to break into our house…I wished at that point that we had a gun, so if someone was going to break in, my husband could at least protect the house.”
Primm said she still has her fears regarding guns but hopes to get to a range soon to work through those nerves. Lacey A, who chose to withhold her last name, told Guns.com that, as a single mother, uncertainty led her to grab a Springfield XD-S from a local gun store.
“Being a single mother at this time with current events, and just the uncertainty, pushed me into making that decision [to buy a gun] as protection for my own home, for myself and my children,” she explained.
While anti-gun groups, such as Everytown, maintain that the reason for the surge in gun sales is “difficult to pinpoint,” it’s obvious that many Americans, regardless of previous political affiliations, now see value in exercising their right to keep and bear arms. With gun sales breaking traditional demographics and shattering stereotypes — women reportedly account for 40-percent of new gun buyers — it’s clear that the gun narrative saw a radical transformation in 2020. One that just might make a difference come November.