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US gun sales hit record in first quarter

By AI HEPING in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-27 10:39
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A woman shops for a handgun at Frontier Arms & Supply gun shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, US on March 18, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

US gun sales in the first three months of this year have hit a record of nearly 5.5 million, with gun retailers saying what's driving purchases are the latest round of federal stimulus payments distributed to Americans, recent mass shootings and the talk of gun control.

At the current pace, total sales could slightly surpass 2020, when a record 21 million guns were sold, according to the National Sport Shooting Foundation (NSSF). 

First-quarter sales were up 13 percent from the year-ago quarter — the most guns sold in any three-month period since 1999, which is as far back as the FBI background check data cited by the NSSF goes. 

In March alone, sales surged 25 percent over a year ago to 4,691,738. 

FBI data show that six of the top 10 days for instant background checks — which are required by the federal government before a licensed firearms retailer can sell a gun — were in March. 

The week of March 15-21 was the top week for FBI background checks since 1998, with 1,218,002 total firearms checks completed in the days following the March 17 mass shootings that killed eight people, including six people of Asian descent, in three Atlanta-area spas. 

During the week of March 22-28, when more than 1 million background checks were completed, 10 people were killed at a King Soopers grocery story in Boulder, Colorado.

Forbes said gun retailers it interviewed have attributed the March sales spike to stimulus checks as the mass shootings prompted President Joe Biden to reiterate his call for an assault weapons ban.

"March was absolutely insane," Tiffany Teasdale, owner of Lynnwood Gun in Lynnwood, Washington, told Forbes. "We had a two-hour wait almost daily to just get into our store. 

"Once the stimulus money came out, people were buying again," Teasdale said. "Customers would come in ranting and raving about their stimulus money they just got and how Uncle Sam is helping them to buy more guns."  

Eric Wallace, who owns and manages Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, Georgia, an 80,000-square-foot store that advertises itself as the nation's largest gun store, said his store saw a jump in sales in March after the government started sending out stimulus checks. He also believes that a temporary shortage of firearms in 2020 forced some consumers to wait until this year to buy a gun.

Wallace also said some customers have cited what they see as the possibility of new gun control rules following mass shootings this year as the reason to buy a weapon. "Whenever you talk about taking things away, people want it more," he told CBS News.

Wallace also said, "We expect to sell more guns this April than any other April we've ever had." 

He said this year's biggest sellers are "concealed-carry handguns". Hunting rifle sales are up as well, although guns bought primarily for personal defense this year account for about 70 percent of his overall business, he said. 

In 2020, a surge in gun sales to an all-time high was widely attributed to nationwide anxiety due to the pandemic as well as social unrest following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

"The conditions are different this year," said Mark Oliva, director of public affairs at the NSSF. "There are a lot of concerns about personal safety, but the talk of gun control in Congress is undeniably a factor that drives sales."

"We see this trend often. Whenever high-profile mass shootings occur, people begin stockpiling weapons out of fear that the government will restrict gun rights," said James Densely, co-founder of The Violence Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that tracks public mass shootings in the US.

On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal to expand gun rights in the US in a New York case over the right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense. The justices said they will review a lower court ruling that upheld New York's restrictive gun permit law.  

New York is among eight states that limit who has the right to carry a weapon in public. The others are California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.  In the rest of the country, gun owners have little trouble legally carrying their weapons when they go out.

The court had turned down review of the issue in June, before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death. The case marks the court's first foray into gun rights since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court in October, making a 6-3 conservative majority.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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