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Americans buying weapons en masse: 23 million units sold in 2020

The sale of firearms to Americans has risen again, to a record high. Especially the group of civilians who bought a pistol or rifle for the first time appears to have increased significantly.

In 2020 alone, 23 million firearms would have been sold to private individuals. CNN previously reported that, especially in Georgia, Michigan and New Jersey, many more guns were sold than in the previous year.

According to a survey by The New York Times, one-fifth of Americans who bought a firearm last year were first time buyers . That means that they had never bought a weapon before, but now they had the need.

The reasons for this are different, the newspaper said. Gun sales in the United States traditionally peak during election years and also when there is another series of shocking shootings, as is the case now. Eight people died in San Jose, California, this week when an aggrieved man opened fire on his colleagues.

George Floyd

The fact that many more weapons were sold in the past year would be related to the fears of many Americans about the outbreak of the corona pandemic and also because of the street protests of Black Lives Matter.

The corona outbreak terrified many people. A spokesman for an association of gun owners said at the time: “Regardless of your ethnic or social background, you all ask yourself the same question: if there is no more food in the shops next week, how are we going to protect ourselves and our family?”. Most weapons were sold in June last year when there were many protests after the murder of George Floyd.

The fact that many extra weapons were sold in the past year can also be attributed to the polarization, according to researchers. Political divisions and mutual distrust have only increased.

“It’s disturbing the way we see each other – as people they want to protect themselves from,” said The New York Times. “There is a break in trust and a collapse in a shared, common reality,” Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, said in the paper. “There is also all this social change, and social change is scary.”

Antecedents

Americans who already owned guns aren’t just buying more, but those who had never owned them are now buying them, according to new preliminary data from Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. The new owners are less likely to be white men than in the past. Half were female, a fifth were black, and a fifth were Hispanic.

By now, 39 per cent of all American households are said to own at least one weapon. Five years ago, that was 32 per cent, according to research from the University of Chicago. “At the beginning of the pandemic, there was just as much a run on guns as on toilet paper,” said a commentator.

The increase in sales can be seen from the numbers of federal background checks. Since these are being tracked for the first time, there were more than a million requests for them in one week last year. That record was broken this spring, and there were 1.2 million such requests in a week. And those are the weapons that are legally purchased.

400 million weapons

It is estimated that there are currently about 400 million weapons in circulation in the United States. The vast majority of homicides in the United States are committed with firearms. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, says it is not the number of guns that is a problem, but the increasingly heavy calibre that is sold over the counter. The police increasingly seize automatic or semi-automatic rifles with larger magazines.

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