"Fear, desperation" drive largest month for gun sales ever

Last month we saw reports indicating that requests for background checks and foot traffic at gun shops were spiking in an unprecedented fashion. As it turns out, those weren’t just people going window shopping. The figures for March are now in and a staggering 2.3 million firearms were sold in the United States (an all-time record), many to self-described first-time buyers. But whether they were old hands or new to the process, many of them offered the same reasons for wanting a firearm. The Free Beacon interviewed a number of recent shoppers and they all expressed concerns over the possibility that the rule of law might begin crumbling if the coronavirus gets out of control and they wanted to be ready to protect their families and homes in the event of widespread civil unrest.

Aaron Eaton learned how to shoot in the Army back in 2006 but holstered a pistol for the last time when he left in 2009 and took a job as a technician for a sewer company. That all changed on March 26 when the father of four walked out of an Alabama gun store with a Beretta 92FS, the same gun he handled as a military policeman at the height of the Iraq war.

“Simply put: I wanted peace of mind when it comes to the safety of my family,” Eaton said.

Eaton’s pistol was one of 2.3 million firearms to fly off the shelves in March, the single busiest month for gun sales ever. The Washington Free Beacon spoke to half a dozen new gun owners who purchased a total of six handguns and two shotguns. All of the new gun owners provided proof of purchase, though some asked not to have their last names published because of potential career backlash.

Some of the people purchasing a weapon, like Mr. Eaton in the excerpt above, had prior, military experience with handling a firearm and seemed familiar with the hoops one has to jump through in order to purchase one. Other first-time buyers clearly had a lot more trouble. As we discussed previously, many liberals in California who had previously supported stringent gun control laws were shocked and dismayed with how difficult it was to obtain a gun and how long they would have to wait to bring it home. They also displayed a shocking lack of knowledge about how to safely handle one.

Another common complaint among those looking for firearms involved the growing trend in many states to try to “empty the jails” to prevent the spread of the virus there. Further, overburdened police departments announced that the would no longer be aggressively enforcing certain laws. That adds up to a situation where some shoppers felt things were closing in on Mad Max territory and they wanted to be ready if roving bands of bad guys showed up on their street.

The Free Beacon offers this quote from Jake Wilhelm, a Virginia-based environmental consultant who recently purchases a Sig Sauer P226.

“[My fiancée and I] came to the conclusion in early March that if a nation like Italy was going into full lockdown, we in the U.S. were likely on the same path,” Wilhelm said. “Given that, and knowing that police resources would be stretched to the max, I decided to purchase a handgun.”

Another first-time buyer expressed concerns over what would happen if the police in his home city experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 among their ranks. Who, he wondered, will protect the public from the bad guys with guns if the good guys are all in the ICU? It’s a fair question.

One other fact to consider here is that America set this record for gun sales at a time when some states, including New York, still have most if not all of their gun shops closes as nonessential businesses. Given the fact that you generally can’t cross state lines to purchase a firearm in a state where you are not a resident, that means millions of potential shoppers were removed from the pool. How high might the sales have been if all of the gun stores in every state were open? The mind boggles.

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