Harvard/Northeastern study: Women now account for nearly half of all new gun owners

AP Photo/ Rick Bowmer

That’s quite a cultural shift — and it will likely lead to a political shift as well, and not in favor of the current administration. Women accounted for almost half of all new gun owners in a 27-month period that includes the pandemic as well as the Democratic presidential primary run-up, according to a new study by researchers from Harvard and Northeastern. Clearly, the gun-control rhetoric of the campaign and in the Biden administration has not had its intended impact:


Close to half of all new U.S. gun buyers since the beginning of 2019 have been women, a shift for a market long dominated by men, according to a new study.

The preliminary results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey, designed by Deborah Azrael of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Matthew Miller of Northeastern University, show an estimated 3.5 million women became new gun owners from January 2019 through April of this year. About 4 million men became new gun owners over that period, they found.

For decades, other surveys have found that around 10% to 20% of American gun owners were women.

What makes this shift even more interesting is that gun-control advocates have spent the last several years attempting to recruit women to their ranks. Shannon Watts founded “Moms Demand Action” eight years ago on the explicit argument that maternal instincts should be directed into opposing gun rights. It eventually got folded into Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety in 2017, so they have been well funded for quite some time.

Furthermore, the popularity of gun purchases of all kinds continues to grow:

The number of federal background checks for gun purchases hit an all-time high in 2020 of 21 million, according to an analysis of federal data by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group.

Researchers and gun store owners attributed the jump to fears driven by the Covid-19 pandemic and the protests, sometimes accompanied by violence, that followed the police killing of George Floyd, as well as the divisive atmosphere around the 2020 presidential election.


Those factors might contribute to the boost in sales, but the trends had been in place for years prior to any of the three. In fact, the numbers directly from the FBI are far higher than those of the NSSF. The FBI recorded nearly 40 million NICS firearm background checks in 2020, not 21 million, a large jump over 2019’s 28.4 million. However, that number has grown by double-digit percentages year-on-year ever since 2006, and nearly doubled during the Barack Obama presidency:

  • 2009: 14.0 million
  • 2010: 14.4 million
  • 2011: 16.45 million
  • 2012: 19.6 million
  • 2013: 21.1 million
  • 2014: 20.1 million
  • 2015: 23.1 million
  • 2016: 27.5 million

Interestingly, the number declined the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency:

  • 2017: 25.2 million
  • 2018: 26.2 million

The takeaway here is that elections appear to be contributing factors to gun sales (at least as calculated by FBI’s count of NICS background checks). That doesn’t account for the 11-million request jump from 2019 to 2020 — obviously the pandemic and the riots played a role, the latter likely the largest of all. That’s a product of all the “defund the police” talk and changes that took place in 2020. But firearm sales have been experiencing a long-term and large growth in popularity, and if anything 2021 might break another record. The FBI counts 27.8 million as of the end of last month, a pace that would put us at 41.7 million for the year.


Also, this study confirms what others have also claimed — gun ownership has become more diverse in other directions as well:

In addition to its findings on gender, the survey found that new gun buyers were more racially diverse than existing owners who bought more. Among new gun buyers, 55% were white, 21% were Black and 19% were Hispanic. Among new women gun owners, 28% were Black. The 19.6 million existing gun owners who bought more firearms since 2019 were 71% male and 74% white.

There’s also some political diversity in these ranks as well:

At an outdoor range in the Angeles National Forest outside of Los Angeles on a recent Sunday, Nielan Barnes practiced with the Girls Gun Club, a group that has grown to more than 1,500 members since it was founded in 2014. Ms. Barnes, 53, a sociology professor, got her first gun, a Glock, last September as she worried about breakdowns in the social order after watching supporters of then-President Donald Trump drive past her house on the way to rallies.

The instructors, mostly women dressed in black tops and pants, led the group through drills like kicking in the door of a fake house and quickly firing at targets in different rooms.

“They may not identify as feminists but they are empowered women who know how to use a gun,” Ms. Barnes said.

What does that portend for Joe Biden and his team? They’ve committed themselves to a gun-control agenda that looks increasingly out of step with the times. Voters in all demographics are quite literally investing in their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and they will not lightly shrug off attempts to negate that investment by bureaucrats, especially those mouthing “defund the police” sympathies at the same time. That includes David Chipman, who flamed out as Biden’s ATF nominee … and will also likely include whoever follows Chipman into that hot seat, unless the White House wakes up and smells the coffee. Or the propellant.


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