Gun sales break May record amid coronavirus pandemic, riots

Gun sales increased 80.2% in May compared to last year

Gun sales spiked more than 80 percent year over year in May as consumers responded to safety concerns and civil unrest prompted, in part, by the novel coronavirus pandemic, experts said.

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Approximately 1,726,053 guns were sold in May – a record-breaking 80.2 percent increase from last year, according to data released late Monday by Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting, which examines the raw data obtained from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

Of the firearms sold, 1,052,723 were handguns and 535,014 were long-guns, the SAAF estimated.

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Similar increases were previously recorded through the months of April, when data showed a 71.3 percent increase from April 2019, and March, when an 85.3 percent increase was reported year over year, according to information previously released by the SAAF.

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Jurgen Brauer, chief economist at SAAF, said Tuesday the numbers through May 31 so far did not appear to reflect any increase in firearm sales as a result of protests and, later, riots in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes.

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Dana Loesch, an author, radio host and former spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, told FOX Business on Tuesday she was “not at all” surprised to hear the latest numbers and expects people will be eager to purchase firearms, considering the recent violence in parts of the nation.

“When people see the violence that they see on television – and people understand the difference between peaceful protesters and violent rioters – they see, you know, the sunset and then the fires start, and see the assaults and the looting and the breaking and destruction of private property,” Loesch said. “So they look at this and it unnerves them, especially after we've all been locked up for, like, three months."

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Loesch said the likelihood of someone's business being looted or damaged decreases when owners have the means to protect themselves.

“This is people's livelihoods. For some people, their lives are over when they lose their ability to make ends meet,” she said. “These aren't rich corporation heads that are feeling the brunt of this.”

People purchasing firearms, “want to make sure they’re protected,” especially, she said, at a time when some groups have created dangerous situations beyond peaceful protests.

“When people see the way that law and order breaks down out of either a lack of respect just for law and order, or for an unwillingness to stop looting and rioting,” she continued, “They're going to get firearms because they ultimately understand that they are their own first responder.”

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The notion of people being “their own first responder,” was also expressed by Mark Oliva, spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers.

People wait in a line to enter a gun store in Culver City, Calif., March 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

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An NSSF survey found that 40 percent of recent gun purchasers are first-time buyers who are “overwhelmingly purchasing handguns for personal protection.”

“The past months, and especially the events of the past week, show us that in uncertain times, law-abiding Americans will consistently choose to take responsibility for their own safety, as is their right,” he said Monday in a prepared statement. “Police were already stretched thin before this wave of unrest, prisoners recently released from jails were being re-arrested for subsequent violent crimes and the widespread destruction of personal property and assaults remind Americans that they must be their own first-responder.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.