By: Peter Suciu
A year ago, the world was a very different place; lockdown orders were still in place, and Americans were scrambling to find basic necessities ranging from toilet paper to frozen pizza. Over the summer, as the country settled in to its "new normal," there was a run on backyard pools.
Yet it was firearms that had a year like no other. The pandemic started a surge in sales, but last summer's wave of violent protests followed by the presidential election, where even before winning the White House Joe Biden made it clear he'd push for new gun control measures, all further drove buyers into the gun shop.
According to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which has been used as a gauge to track sales of firearms since it was adopted in 1998, 2020 saw a 40 percent increase of background checks conducted from the previous year. In total, there were more than 21 million background checks conducted last year, compared to just over 13 million in 2019, and while there has been a steady increase yearly of around 8 percent, 2020 saw that jump significantly.
It wasn't just gun owners stocking up, either. Last year also saw more than 8.5 million first-time buyers. Many of those buyers were young, female, and minorities. Women and black Americans accounted for 40 percent of the first-time gun buyers in the first months of 2020, and some accounts suggest the percentage only increased as the year went on.
In other words, the common belief that gun owners are mostly gray-haired white guys – something that was never really true anyway – certainly isn't the case.
According to a 2020 survey from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for firearms retailers, ranges, manufacturers, and gun shop owners across the country, upwards of 40 percent of sales last year were from first-time gun buyers. The trade group noted that the largest demographic increase occurred among non-white Americans.
"Today's gun owner looks a lot less like me and looks a whole lot more like America," the NSSF's public affairs director Mark Oliva, who is white, told NPR in April.
This phenomena could make it a lot harder for Biden, and even his progressive allies on Capitol Hill, to push a gun control agenda. There were likely opponents of the Second Amendment who felt now could be the right time, as the National Rifle Association (NRA) is essentially on its knees due to financial problems within the organization.
Earlier this month, a federal judge shot down a bankruptcy bid, which opens the door to the organization being sued by New York Attorney General Letita James.
While the future of the NRA is in question, there remain many other groups that stand by and support the Second Amendment, and increasingly these aren't the "old boys club" that the NRA was long seen to be. CNN reported this week that there are now minority-led, pro-Second Amendment groups, including the National African American Gun Association, and the DC Project, a women-centered firearms education organization that also trains domestic violence victims to defend themselves safely and legally.
CNN also put the spotlight on other, more diverse groups, including Pink Pistols, an LGBTQ gun group, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Gun Owners, which formed in March amid a Covid-19-related surge in anti-Asian hate crimes.
It is often said that politics makes for strange bedfellows, and in truth, few conservative groups might find common cause with Pink Pistols or other groups, but the old proverb "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" rings true when it comes to gun control. Opponents of the Second Amendment certainly don't care about the person standing behind the gun; they just seek to take it away from him/her/them.
Supporters of gun control continue to claim that the "vast majority" of Americans want increased restrictions on firearms ownership, but it is clear this isn't the case. Firearms aren't just owned by middle-aged and old white guys, and guns are owned and used responsibility by all shades, creeds, and demographics.
Even though these individuals may not agree on other issues, the support of the Second Amendment remains unwavering.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.