Photo by Thomas Def via Unsplash

First-time gun ownership in California has seen a sharp increase in the past year, and it’s a trend the rest of the nation has followed. 

According to the Miller v. Becerra response recently filed in federal court, over one million new guns were registered in California over the past year, with over 350,000 people going through the state’s background check for the first time. 

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A common reason many of these first-time buyers seem to have are the events of the COVID-19 pandemic. Civil unrest, combined with a sudden rush to hoard food, toilet paper, and firearms, led those who had only passively considered owning a weapon to purchase one of their own. 

The University of California Firearm Violence Research Center and Violence Prevention Research Program published a study, stating the events of the pandemic align too closely to the sudden surge of purchases to be coincidental. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated persistent structural, economic, and social inequities in the conditions that contribute to violence and its consequences,” they write. 

On worry about violence, the research center states that the “percentage of respondents who reported that they were somewhat or very worried about violence happening to them significantly increased during the pandemic for all violence types except mass shootings, ranging from a 2.8 percentage point increase for robbery (from 65.5% to 68.2%; p<0.01) to 5.4 percentage points each for police violence (from 45.3% to 50.6%; p<0.001).” 

These sentiments of fear are not only shared by Californians, but by people across the nation. According to the National Instant Criminal Background Check, the number of background checks on firearms has doubled from January 2020 to January 2021, a sharp uptick when compared to past years. 

When asked why so many people are suddenly eager to become first-time gun owners, Director of Media Relation of the NRA  Amy Hunter,, sent Scriberr the following statement: 

“In the last year, Americans have experienced politicians trying to shut down firearm stores, criminals being set free from prison and police departments defunded across the nation. This all happened in the midst of a pandemic, a lockdown and widespread rioting. People felt vulnerable. Many realized their safety was ultimately in their own hands and they reacted by going out and purchasing firearms.” 

This fear is echoed by some citizens on the left, right and center. A centrist student at the University of Houston who wishes to stay anonymous agreed. 

“I always wanted a firearm, but 2020 really pushed me to get one when I was able to afford one,” the student told Scriberr News. 

“The events that unfolded throughout the year is enough reason for anyone to want to own a gun, the way I see it, police brutality, riots, and proposed gun legislations, to list a few. How can you trust the police to protect you from dangerous criminals and situations when there’s a chance they might actually shoot you, or you might be dead by the time they come?”

Conservative insurance agent Gary S. also felt the need to take safety into his own hands.  “It’s now obvious that citizens can not rely on police for their protection. I now own a gun to protect myself and my family from the lawless element in our society,” he told Scriberr. 

Not all new purchases were a direct result of the pandemic, however. 

Southern liberal C. L. had always seen guns as hobbyist items for hunting or collection, and has never been opposed to owning a firearm. When asked if the pandemic had played any role in her purchase, she answered in the negative. 

“The pandemic didn’t provide me any incentive or reason to get one any sooner, really,”  C. L. told Scriberr, “I had always intended to get one someday and they became more available because of work.”

C. L. works in a gun store and has noticed the purchase of guns, especially in the South, is much less politicized. 

“The environment is not overwhelmingly conservative, though that is the more common view among the customer base considering the hardcore 2A/NRA subjects surrounding the industry,” she told Scribber.

When asked about the thoughts of those in her social circle,she said “I personally enjoy the confidence of being able to live in my home and go out with my girlfriend and my friends and feel safe. They’ve all got knives that they carry since they’re not comfortable with carrying guns. They understand the want for protection just the same, and appreciate that I carry when they feel unsafe or vulnerable.”

However, not everyone is comfortable with the increase in purchases, with many seeing wide gun ownership as part of the problem, not the solution. 

The New York Times notes “it took a global pandemic to stop school shootings.”

Local L.A. gun store owners and March for Our Lives either declined to comment or failed to respond to Scriberr News before publication.  

Written ByCynthia Zelaya

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