It’s no secret that the coronavirus led to an unprecedented rise in gun background checks in March 2020. I posted about the coronavirus supplanting Barack Obama as the greatest gun salesman in US history, and reiterated this in a brief interview with Axios recently.
An interesting nuance in this overall pattern, however, is the ratio of handguns to long-guns sold. As reported by Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (H/T The Trace!), “The ratio of handguns to long-guns sold now stands at a record 1.84, the highest ratio since the introduction of the NICS checks in late 1998.”
Barack Obama has apparently met his match as the “greatest gun salesman in American history.” On Sunday, an acquaintance from my years wandering around American gun culture messaged me to say that he had not seen a gun buying response like this one in some 15 years in the industry.
I asked him what in particular was different and he said that it was not a fear of being unable to get a particular gun (as under Obama), but a legitimate fear of not being able to defend themselves or their loved ones.
So, under Barack Obama, especially after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there was a fear that certain guns would be banned. The current pandemic buying spree appears to be driven more by a felt need to have a gun right now, especially among new gun owners who, according to my contact, were numerous.
Photo of outdoor supply store from May 2013
When I launched this blog in February 2019, I noted that no one had (yet) systematically studied people who are gun curious. The Pew Research Center’s 2017 report, “America’s Complex Relationship With Guns,” offers some important leads, though.
Instead of simply asking respondents whether or not they currently own a gun, the Pew Research Center wisely also asked currently gunless respondents whether they had owned guns in the past and whether they could see themselves owning a gun in the future. Pew finds that 36% of the currently gunless could see themselves owning guns in the future.
Most times I offer my Sociology of Guns seminar, I require students to obtain “permission of instructor” prior to enrolling. I do this for three main reasons.
First, many students (like many sociologists and some of the public) assume that “of guns” means “of gun violence and gun control.” I want them to be clear what they are in for.
Second, I do deal quite bluntly with issues of violence, injury, and death in the course, and not always coded negatively. Students with sensitivities to this are fairly warned.
Third, the field trip to a firearms education and safety class with optional range visit is an essential part of the course. Students need to know that if they can’t make it, they can’t take the class.
The full text of my Permission of Instructor Info form is below FYI.
Motivated by those who would reduce gun culture in the United States to the National Rifle Association (NRA), I have tried as much as possible to think and write about gun culture without paying too much attention to the NRA. In fact, when I sent out a book proposal a while ago, one of the reviewers took me to task for not discussing the NRA enough.
I have a couple of reasons for downplaying the NRA in my work.
I am very pleased to announce that Trent Steidley (U. of Denver) and I are editing a special issue of Sociological Perspectives on guns. Please see the full call for papers for more information.
Proposals are due April 30th and final manuscripts September 1st.
I was scheduled to teach Sociology of Religion in Fall 2020. When my current class found this out they expressed considerable disappointment that I wouldn’t be teaching my Sociology of Guns seminar. So I made a last minute change and will be teaching the course for the 6th straight calendar.
I have posted a number of times on this blog and my older Gun Culture 2.0 blog about this seminar I have been teaching in the Department of Sociology at Wake Forest University since 2015. This entry collects as many earlier posts as possible — from both blogs — including many written by students in the class.