Americans feel tremendously insecure as the peaceful existence their polity was proud of, has given way to violence and political uncertainty. The US social structure is at war with itself and this spectre is extremely dangerous because a large number of American population armed with automatic weapons. The decision-makers rightly fear that any outbreak of large-scale violence may provoke widespread turbulence in which firearms will be frequently used.
Fearful of violence in the future, Americans are buying millions more firearms. It was observed that firearm sales soared in January after a mob-led assault on the US Capitol and the arrival of a new administration that favours tighter gun restrictions. More than 2 million firearms were bought last month that is an 80 per cent year-over-year increase and the second-highest one-month total on record.
In three individual weeks in January, there was a record number of background checks, climbing into the top five spots since the FBI began tracking in 1998. Firearm stocks spiked in the days leading up to the 6 January riot and as election deniers swarmed statehouses across the country, extending a trend line seen in November and December amid the particularly polarising political climate.
Background checks, and sales of firearms and ammunition, have been increasing pace for months. The surge is in line with the record pace set in 2020: nearly 23 million firearms were bought, representing a 64 per cent jump year over year. Estimated firearm purchases climbed to an unprecedented 2.1 million in March, early in the coronavirus pandemic when cities and states issued stay-at-home orders to contain the spread of the deadly disease. Panic-buying was common, with Americans hoarding toilet paper, diapers and cleaning supplies amid the widespread uncertainty.
The killing of George Floyd set off a summer of racial-justice protests and prompted retailers in some cities to board up windows. Firearms sales went even higher, to 2.8 million in June and 2.5 million in July. Wal-Mart removed gun and ammunition displays from thousands of its US stores. It was reported that new gun owners are buying firearms as an investment, like a precious metal. The first-time buyers mention that they no longer trust police departments to protect them, especially after some agencies were overwhelmed by protesters during the summer. This is a frightening omen that has disturbed the decision-makers at all levels.
Last year in the fall, misinformation swelled amid one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in US history. President Donald Trump refused to accept his loss in the 3 November contest and spent weeks pressing baseless claims of voter fraud. And then the year’s political havoc spilled over into 2021. The obvious outcome of this campaign of hatred was that a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to stop the counting of electoral-college votes finalising Joe Biden’s victory. The attack resulted in the deaths of a Capitol Police officer and four rioters, and injuries to about 140 police officers, authorities have said. People all over the country witnessed these scenes and became very concerned for their safety and the only way-out for them was to buy weapons for ensuring their safety. Michigan and New Jersey recorded the biggest percentage change in firearm purchases in January compared with the previous year, at more than triple the national rate.
It is however pointed out that gun sales jump when a Democrat takes over the White House. In January 2009, when Barack Obama was inaugurated for his first term, the total number of firearm sales reached 1.2 million, a record at the time and a nearly 29 per cent jump from January 2008. In January 2017, when Trump was inaugurated, more than 2 million arms were bought registering a 20 per cent drop from 2016.
The buying has also gone up because Biden pledged during his campaign to reinstate a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He also proposed a buyback programme for assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that would require owners to sell them to the federal government or register them under the National Firearms Act.
Though there is no particular head for recording that who owns guns and when they purchased them yet according to a survey roughly 40 per cent — or 8.4 million — of the guns purchased in 2020 were by first-time buyers. It also found that 40 per cent of the purchasers were women, and the largest demographic group of buyers was Black Americans. Though hunting has become more popular as more Americans stay home and engage in socially distant activities, most firearms sold last year were small handguns. Buyers typically say they want such firearms for self defense or personal safety revealing a yawning gap in the levels of trust in law-enforcing agencies. TW