In his third and final guest post in this series (see his first and second), Trent Steidley takes up the claim that the COVID-19 gun purchasing spree of March 2020 was driven by handgun purchases (a claim I made myself, which helped begin this dialogue).
Was March 2020 the best month for handgun sales ever?
Handguns for sale at Frisco Gun Club, Texas. Photo by David Yamane
By Trent Steidley
NARRATIVE #3: March 2020 was the best month for handgun sales ever.
This is technically correct (and if you watch Futurama you know this is the best kind of correct).
By MOODMAN from giphy.com
In his guest post yesterday, Trent Steidley challenged the simplistic use of data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as a measure of “gun sales.”
Today he critically engages the second of three common narratives emerging from the great gun buying spree of March 2020: that March 2020 saw the most guns sold in a single month in the history of NICS.
By Trent Steidley
NARRATIVE #2: March 2020 saw the most guns sold in a single month
This is true, at least for the numbers from NICS sales. But March 2020 is not a large increase considering the effect of population size and in relation to previous spikes.
My recent posts about the great COVID19 gun buying spree of March 2020 (especially handguns) elicited some helpful clarifying and corrective tweets from my colleague Trent Steidley (bio below). I don’t know any sociologist as familiar or adept with National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) data as he is.
I am grateful, therefore, that he has written up his thoughts on using caution and sense with NICS data and gun sale spikes. In three separate posts here, he offers some clarifications and alternative takes for those really trying to understand what happened last month.
Frisco Gun Club, Texas. Photo by David Yamane
By Trent Steidley
You will have heard that March 2020 was a gangbuster month for gun sales. To be sure, two things are certainly true.
One, a lot of people went to gun stores, got background checks, and likely bought guns in March 2020 (and the reason for this is certainly because of COVID19, but whether these are new gun buyers afraid of social unrest or current owners afraid of government actions will take time to tell). Two, the majority of these guns sold were handguns.
But there are some narratives in these news stories that we should be cautious about.
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.
As noted in my recent post about the changing themes in gun advertising in The American Rifleman from 1918-2017, I have just finished a replication study based on advertising in Guns magazine from 1955 (when the magazine was founded) through 2019.
It documents the same pattern of decline of “Gun Culture 1.0” themes of hunting and recreational/sport shooting and raise of “Gun Culture 2.0” themes of personal protection and concealed carry.
A pre-publication version of the paper is available for download on SocArXiv Papers. Just two clicks and you can help this paper blow up on SocArXiv.
UPDATE: Thanks to a reader “OK S.” I now have the source of Colt’s “Safety of the Highways” ad. It was published in 1926 in The Lucky Bag, the Annual of the Regiment of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The annual is available at https://archive.org/details/luckybag1926unse/page/566. Consider donating to the Internet Archive!
P.S., If you have any idea where the Colt’s “Safety of the Highways” ad was first published, I am still looking for the source of that. Thanks!
I realized recently that I never posted the published version of my work analyzing gun advertisements in The American Rifleman. It documents the decline of “Gun Culture 1.0” themes of hunting and recreational/sport shooting and rise of “Gun Culture 2.0” themes of personal protection and concealed carry.
So, here is the citation and a link to the book chapter: David Yamane, Sebastian L. Ivory, and Paul C. Yamane, “The Rise of Self-Defense in Gun Advertising: The American Rifleman, 1918-2017,” in Jennifer Carlson, Kristen Goss, and Harel Shapira, eds., Guns: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Politics, Policy, and Practice (New York: Routledge, 2019).
I am currently writing up a replication study using advertisements in Guns magazine from 1955-2019, which I presented at the American Society of Criminology annual meetings in San Francisco this month. I will post a link to that paper when it is ready.