LOS ANGELES (Nation Now) – While mass shootings ceased to make headlines last year, the guns never left. In fact, the legal sale of firearms across the country has reached an all-time high. And as the United States moves towards a post-pandemic future, gun violence continues to increase.
More than 21 million people performed a background check to purchase a gun last year, shattering all previous records, and a survey found 40% were identified as new gun owners – including many belong to demographic groups that are not normally associated with guns, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the gun industry.
According to gun analysts, sales are up for the 13th consecutive month and demand is still high.
Mark Oliva of the National Shooting Sports Foundation says inventory moves so quickly that store shelves are often empty.
“We do an average of 1.5 to 2 million background checks each month for the sale of a firearm, and it’s holding up. So what this tells me is that even though you don’t see a lot of guns in the stores in the windows, we are still able to make those sales, ”Oliva said.
Fuquay Gun Store in North Carolina reports the busiest three months in history with many customers concerned about personal safety.
“There are a tremendous number of people who are still buying home defense firearms this year. Also, a ton of interest in carrying concealment and gun concealment courses this year, ”said Clay Ausley, who works at Fuquay Gun.
While responsible gun ownership is prevalent, so is an increase in gun crime.
In Los Angeles, police statistics show shootings have increased by 67% and homicides by more than 26%.
For law enforcement agencies across the country, stolen guns remain a significant problem.
“Just looking at the reports we have produced a number of them are stolen, so they were stolen in a home burglary or vehicle burglary,” said Joseph Chacon, chief. Austin Police Department Acting. “We come across ghost weapons or illegally manufactured weapons from time to time.”
“We are particularly concerned about the continued increase in the number of people who steal firearms from vehicles,” said Ron Thomas, division chief of the Denver Police Department.
In Los Angeles and other major cities, much of the increase in gun violence is attributed to gang activity.
Mental health experts cite more stress and anxiety from the pandemic. In New Orleans, police say they have seen more and more minor conflicts escalate. In an incident over the weekend, five people were shot and two killed.
“The coronavirus is enough, and all this murder is nonsense,” said Reginald Lee, a New Orleans resident. “Lay down the arms, talk about it, pray about it, but lay down the arms.”
Gun advocates also associate the increase with a loss of confidence in the ability of police and government institutions at all levels to keep the public safe from what was initially an invisible and poorly understood threat. The eruption of sustained protests against racial injustice after the police murder of George floyd and calls to cut police funding have also helped increase interest in guns.
One of those buyers was Charles Blain, a 31-year-old black man in Houston who first purchased a Glock 43 handgun and shotgun last year. Blain, who describes himself as a conservative, says the “pandemic-related unemployment crime” and repeated calls over the past year to release hundreds of inmates due to the surge in COVID-19 infections l ‘prompted to buy.
“I’ve always been pro-guns, but I’ve never really felt the need to own one myself,” says Blain, who founded Urban Reform, which helps underserved communities get involved. political decisions that affect them.
The dramatic increase in gun ownership represents a “tectonic shift in the gun conversation,” Oliva said.
“For these people, possession and control of firearms has been a rhetorical debate until now. It was something we could discuss at cocktail hour, but they didn’t have the skin of the game – then they bought weapons, ”he says.
“It’s hard to put today’s gun owner in a box,” Oliva added.
Gun rights advocates feel content with what this might mean for gun policy, with a larger section of society seeing themselves when they hear about gun control efforts.
At the same time, gun-related homicides in medium and large cities in America exploded during the coronavirus, and criminologists believe the pandemic and socio-economic loss in many communities are factors in the origin of this trend.
A Council on Criminal Justice study tracked a 30% increase in homicides overall in a sample of 34 U.S. cities in 2020, as well as an 8% increase in gun assaults.
“We have tried to sound the alarm, but the # 1 priority is COVID because nothing happens until COVID is corrected,” says Alex Piquero, criminologist and professor at the University of Miami who sits at a COVID-19 commission for the Criminal Justice Council. “It’s the long term symptom of the disease and… the long term mental health effects are going to be staggering.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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