Gun Culture 2.0 and the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020

Late in 2020 an editor from the online magazine Discourse contacted me to see if I wanted to write anything about my work on American gun culture for them. The invitation provided an excellent opportunity for me to formalize some of my scattered thoughts on the Great Gun-Buying Spree of 2020. I quickly agreed.

It was published recently so have a look, and read more after the break.

Screen cap of Discourse magazine essay on Gun Culture 2.0
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I Read This Study of COVID-19 Firearms Sales So You Don’t Have To

I was excited, initially, when I found yet another recently published scholarly article on the COVID-19 pandemic gun buying spree of 2020. I have already noted an interesting study that uses NICS data to highlight how the COVID spree differs from other spikes in gun buying. And a study that compares new COVID gun buyers to other categories of people who did and did not buy guns from January to May 2020.

“Public perspectives on firearm sales in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic” was published in October in the journal Injury Prevention. The authors are public health scholars. The data employed comes from Amazon mTurk during the last week of May 2020.

Looking at the article, my excitement faded quickly, for reasons I discuss below.

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Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020: Collected Works About

The COVID-19 pandemic compounded by the George Floyd protests and riots mixed with the boogaloo/CW2/Great Awakening V leading up to a hotly contested presidential election created a literally unprecedented gun buying spree in 2020.

This post collects various blog posts, stories, and studies I have come across that I think have some value. If you know of other works to be included, please post them in the comments.

Empty gun case at store. Photo by Tamara Keel, https://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/

COVID-19 and Guns Video Series by Duke Center for Firearms Law. Including an interview with yours truly.

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New Gun Owners: Collected Works About

Although there are and have always been new guns owners every year, the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020 may entail more new gun owners than normal. It has certain generated more interest in new gun owners than normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic compounded by the George Floyd protests and riots mixed with the boogaloo/CW2/Great Awakening V leading up to a hotly contested presidential election created unprecedented pressures to get the Gun Curious off the fence and into gun ownership.

This post collects various stories and studies I have come across that emphasize new gun owners, especially in 2020, but also earlier. If you know of other works to be included, please post them in the comments.

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New Gun Owners and Firearm Purchasing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

On top of the paper I wrote about last week, I have found a second scholarly publication on firearm purchasing during the COVID-19 pandemic. This one is by a group of public health scholars associated with the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program at the University of Washington and published in the journal Injury Prevention.

As usual, I skip the parts of these papers that speculate on negative outcomes that could occur and get straight to the data.

Here the data comes from an Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) survey of people from May 1-5, 2020 about whether they had purchased a firearm in response to COVID-19 since January 1, 2020.

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Pandemics, Protests, and Firearms Purchasing

There has been a good deal of speculation and anec-data shared about the great gun buying spree of 2020. It is impossible to deny that something significant happened, but the extent and nature of what happened remains to be understood.

Although it does not tell us everything we want to know, “Pandemics, Protests, and Firearms” by Bree and Matthew Lang (economists at the University of California at Riverside) offers some interesting insights. It is available for download on the SSRN website while it makes its way through the peer review process.

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Societal Uncertainty + Social Unrest = Gun Sales

The fact that gun sales have been off the charts in 2020 is not news, but some were still surprised at the July sales numbers. The newsadvocacy organization The Trace has created an interesting data visualization drawing on NICS data as a proxy for gun sales.

I don’t have any commentary to add beyond things I have already said elsewhere on this blog (here and here) and in my chat with Jake Charles from the Duke Center for Firearms Law, but posting this as a resource for others to use.

Note also Professor Trent Steidley’s cautionary notes about interpreting NICS data, here, here, and here.)

COVID-Times Review of Land, God, and Guns by Levi Gahman and Related Thoughts

I have been very fortunate that my job has not been adversely affected in a major way by the COVID19 pandemic this year. Which is not to say that it has been completely unaffected. The already inadequate amount of funding I receive from Wake Forest to conduct my research is going away for the foreseeable future (much more on this in the coming months). And other responsibilities of my faculty job are squeezing out my research and writing time right now (hence so few posts here and on Gun Culture 2.0 lately, which is why I am cross-posting this to both blogs).

I have spent weeks this summer learning how to teach online, developing and teaching 2 sections of Introduction to Sociology online, and facilitating a Peer Learning Group on online education for my department colleagues.

Also, because my personal and family life has not been as disrupted by COVID19 as some of my professional peers, I have tried to say “yes” to every request to review manuscripts, books, and promotion dossiers I have received since March.

Among the assignments I have accepted is to review the book, Land, God and Guns: Settler Colonialism and Masculinity in the American Heartland (Zed, 2020), for Choice Reviews. (Choice Reviews is run by the Association of College and Research Libraries and is used by academic librarians to select materials for their collections.)

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COVID-19 and Guns Video Series by Duke Center for Firearms Law

I was privileged to be invited recently to contribute to an ongoing series of videos produced by the Duke Center for Firearms Law on COVID-19 and guns.

I was asked to speak about my approach to studying guns, to speculate about why people are buying guns during the COVID-19 pandemic, what misconceptions people have about gun acquisition, and what advice I have for new guns owners.

Watch the YouTube video below:

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Coronavirus Supplants Barack Obama as Greatest Gun Salesman in American History

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

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