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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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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Differences Between New and Long-Standing US Gun Owners by Wertz, et al.

The great gun buying spree(s) of 2020 have raised the issue of NEW GUN OWNERS. We have no reliable data on how many of those millions of NICS checks being run this year are for people who are buying a gun for the first time. Anecdotal evidence suggests a short answer of A LOT.

But it is also the case that even in a “normal” year, there are about 1 million new gun owners. This is one of the many interesting conclusions from a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2018 which my Sociology of Guns students are reading this week.

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