News & Politics

Gun Sales Smash Records. Are Americans Preparing For War?

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports some astonishing figures for gun sales in 2020:

Nearly 5 million Americans purchased a firearm for the very first time in 2020. NSSF surveyed firearm retailers which reported that 40 percent of sales were conducted to purchasers who have never previously owned a firearm.

NSSF tracks the background checks associated with the sale of a firearm based on the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System (NICS). NSSF-adjusted NICS checks for January through July 2020 is a record 12.1 million, which is up 71.7 percent from the 7.1 million NSSF-adjusted NICS January through July 2019. This equates to nearly 5 million first-time gun owners in the first seven months of 2020.

Certainly, many of those sales are related to home defense. The climate in America is becoming more dangerous and the rhetoric of revolution is being used freely and openly. This has turned some who might have been wishy-washy about guns into Second Amendment believers.

“This is a tectonic shift in the firearm and ammunition industry marketplace and complete transformation of today’s gun-owning community,” said Lawrence G. Keane, a senior vie president at the foundation.

“These first-time buyers represent a group of people who, until now, were agnostic regarding firearm ownership. That’s rapidly changing, and these Americans are taking hold of their God-given right to keep and bear arms and protect themselves and their loved ones,” he added.

The figures show that 58% of all firearms purchases were among women and Black men. Taken together, the picture that emerges is one of an America getting prepared.

But prepared for what?

When people feel less safe, they make all kinds of decisions they wouldn’t make under more normal circumstances. They buy a gun or join a cause or march in the streets. They are driven by fear and there are experts who know how to channel that fear to achieve political power.

Both sides are ramping up the fear in advance of the 2020 election. But unlike past elections, both sides are describing the outcome in apocalyptic terms. And given current events, people are believing them. When both sides are saying they won’t accept the outcome or that the count is going to be hopelessly fraudulent, the catalyst is present for an explosion of violence.

We’re are being told we’re going to die if we don’t vote the right way—or lose our freedoms or change the country irreparably. You don’t have to be a Ph.D. to see a possible future where opposing sides battle in the streets and the violence spills over into the suburbs.

Is it realistic to fear a civil war? It’s realistic to prepare for one. When logic and reason disappear from public discourse and civil order breaks down, many scenarios become realistic. Armed militias are already confronting each other, so it’s not much of a stretch to imagine a Lexington or Fort Sumter moment coming out of such a confrontation.

People buying guns aren’t stupid or smart. They’re being realistic.