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Americans Have Bought Record 17m Guns in Year of Unrest, Analysis Finds

Sales surged in the spring amid coronavirus fears and climbed higher during protests for racial justice


30 October 2020

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Americans have bought nearly 17m guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year, according to estimates from a firearms analytics company.

Gun sales across the United States first jumped in the spring, driven by fears about the coronavirus pandemic, and spiked even higher in the summer, during massive racial justice protests across the country, prompted by police killings of black Americans.


The previous record for estimated firearms sold in a single year was 16.6m in 2016 […]

The spike in gun sales comes amid rising tensions and intense political polarization. Citing "the current unrest", Walmart removed guns and ammunition from display in stores this week, as a "precaution" against theft if stores are robbed, the Wall Street Journal reported. The retailer did not confirm when firearms and ammunition would be put back on display but said that customers could continue to buy guns and ammunition by request.


Walmart has already restricted the types of guns and ammunition it sells in the wake of mass shootings and other instances of gun violence. Last year the company announced it would no longer sell ammunition for military-style rifles after a white nationalist terror attack targeting Latino families at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

The increase in gun sales appeared to be primarily driven by more purchases of handguns, though Americans were also buying more rifles and other long guns, Brauer, the firearms analyst, said.

While there is no hard data on how many Americans bought a gun for the first time this year, advocates across the political spectrum say they believe that many of the guns sold in 2020 went to new gun owners.


An increase in gun purchases in just the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic was associated with a nearly 8% increase in firearm violence in the US, according to an estimate from researchers at the University of California, Davis.

That increase translated into an estimated 776 additional shooting injuries in the US from March through May, the researchers found. States that had lower levels of violent crime pre-Covid saw a stronger connection between additional gun purchases and more gun violence.

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