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Gun purchases have consistently been rising since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In late March and early April, fear about the pandemic and its potentially destabilizing effects caused an initial spike in gun sales. A second spike happened over the summer, motivated by the civil unrest and protests in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And in just the past couple months we’ve seen another spike due to uncertainty and fears of violence surrounding the presidential election and its aftermath.

At the root of all these purchases is the pervasive myth that gun ownership will keep us safe.

More guns in our homes and communities will only cause harm—harm that will continue long after the immediate fear that caused the purchase has passed. Compounding matters is the fact that first-time gun buyers are responsible for many of the new gun purchases this year. This demographic is less likely to know how to properly use and store a gun, and is more likely to be unaware of the inherent dangers of owning a gun in the first place.

In fact, we’re already seeing the fallout from these spikes in firearm sales. October alone saw at least a 60% increase in background checks for firearm sales, totaling 1.7 million. This was a record for the month of October, and records were also broken for each of the past 7 months. This year’s totals have already surpassed the previous annual record set in 2016.

In 2020 so far, 17.2 million background checks for gun sales were completed, compared to 15.7 million in 2016. Despite the eye-popping numbers, these figures don’t encompass the full scale of the problem. One person could buy multiple guns at once, which would only require one background check. People can also buy guns online or at gun shows, which doesn’t require any background check at all.

In 2020 so far, 17.2 million background checks for gun sales were completed, compared to 15.7 million in 2016.

At the root of all these purchases is the pervasive myth that gun ownership will keep us safe. This is misplaced at best and deadly at worst. The myth that a gun will make you safer is a deadly virus, spread by well-funded disinformation campaigns. The evidence disproving this notion is clear: Guns are more likely to get stolen than used in self-defense, and in a study of criminal incidents from 2007-2011 a gun was used in self-defense less than 1 percent of the time. Guns do, however, make suicide attempts likelier to succeed, make domestic violence deadlier, and increases the likelihood of unintentional and accidental shootings.

When the real or perceived fears that motivated the millions of new firearm purchases subside, all these guns will still be in our homes and communities. The permanent danger will remain and continue to be a threat to our personal and communal safety.

There are some things, like COVID-19, that we cannot control. But we can control how we react and respond to these events. Instead of seeking safety in firearms, we must turn outward and embrace our communities. Instead of protecting only ourselves and our families, we must love and protect our neighbors. Whatever we do, we must push back against the dangerous notion that guns will keep us safe. 

Andre Gobbo, Domestic Policy Associate, FCNL

Andre Gobbo

Legislative Representative, Domestic Policy
Andre Gobbo supported FCNL’s Domestic Policy team by handling constituent queries, writing action alerts and sign-on letters, assisting with lobbying visits, creating informational content, supporting coalition relationships, and helping execute FCNL’s legislative strategies.

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