COVID-19 Handgun Purchasing Boom

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.”

Of note here is the comparison of this buying spree in comparison to the two other spikes in the Small Arms Analytics figure, at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013 and the end of 2015/beginning of 2016. In the former, long-gun sales outpaced handgun sales, and in the latter the reverse was true.

This suggests that major events in the US stimulate gun sales, but not always in the same way. The 2012/13 and 2015/16 buying sprees were both in response to mass shootings: Sandy Hook and San Bernardino. But the post-Sandy Hook buying was driven more by concern that the Obama administration would move to ban AR-platform rifles. The post-San Bernardino buying was driven more by a concern for personal protection, of which the handgun is the quintessential tool.

Thus, in this time of uncertainty, the desire for personal safety is driving people toward handgun purchases over long-gun purchases, though even Joe Biden recognizes a long-gun can be useful for home defense.

9 thoughts on “COVID-19 Handgun Purchasing Boom

  1. It would be very interesting to see the pattern in North Carolina, where one must have a Pistol Purchase Permit, or a Concealed Handgun Permit, to purchase a handgun at retail.


    • Being able to bypass the NICS check with a concealed carry permit definitely monkeys with the numbers. One of many reasons to talk about gun “sales” when using NICS numbers. That said, having to get a pistol purchase permit definitely makes the rush to buy much harder, especially when you have Sheriffs in some counties not helping. So, yes, would be interesting to see in the NICS numbers or in actual stores if NC has a much different ratio!


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