Most of our readers have seen the reports of record gun sales corresponding with the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shelter-at-home directives. After a March that brought the second-highest gun sales ever for that month, April also saw greatly increased gun sales, with sales up by 25 percent over last year. Within those numbers are plenty of first-time gun buyers.
Pandemic Sparks First-Time Gun Buyers
While much of the gun buying was done by longtime gun owners adding to their collection during the Coronavirus uncertainty, many Americans became brand-new gun owners during the pandemic, despite the difficulties caused in some states by lockdowns.
We recently spoke with several first-time gun buyers who made their purchases during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We wanted to know what spurred their purchase and also how the process worked for them. Among the main reasons were factors like uncertainty over future gun availability, worry over politicians overstepping their bounds, and urgency to make a purchase that had been considered for a long time.
A Case From Connecticut
Denise B. from Connecticut is one of those brand-new gun owners. A 61-year-old married woman, Denise and her husband bought their first gun at the peak of the COVID pandemic. Their choice was a Smith & Wesson M&P 9.
“We had been talking about getting a gun for quite a while, especially during the Obama presidency. The assault on the Second Amendment was increasing and we were concerned about losing our rights to own one,” she said. “Watching the government restrict people’s rights during the COVID crisis only increased our concerns. Once word came that the governor was extending the shutdown, we decided not to put the purchase off any longer.”
While some states deemed gun shops and ranges to be “nonessential,” fortunately for Denise and her husband, Connecticut didn’t force them to close. However, they were operating on very strict guidelines when they made their purchase.
“People could still buy a firearm in Connecticut; the gun stores were open, but only by appointment,” she said. “We called and were able to get an appointment in two days, but we had to tell them specifically what we wanted to purchase ahead of time. Once in the store, the doors were locked. The owner showed us the items we were interested in. There was no browsing. We had all the paperwork necessary to complete the transaction.”
Having never bought a gun before, Denise and her husband didn’t know what to expect. Unlike most states that utilize the FBI for the background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database, Connecticut is a point-of-contact state for NICS; that means that in Connecticut, all firearm transfers by licensed dealers are processed through the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
“The only thing that took time was getting the OK from the state,” Denise said. “The owner of the store dialed the number continuously for at least 20 minutes until he reached an actual person, instead of a busy signal. Other than that wait, the purchase went off without a hitch. There were no surprise laws or rules.”
Uncertainty Leads to Purchase
Josh C. is a 29-year-old single man from Oklahoma City. He also took the gun ownership plunge during the COVID pandemic. His choice: A CZ 75B semi-auto.
“It is a classic, full-size double-stack 9mm with all-steel construction and 16+1 capacity,” Josh said. “I had previously handled a CZ that I liked a lot and also did some reading and viewing of reviews on the Internet. While not as well-known as some European manufacturers, CZ is a prestigious mark, and the CZ 75 has a long history of quality and reliability as one of the original ‘wonder 9s.’”
Like Denise and her husband, the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown pushed Josh to finally make the purchase. He said he was a consideration for some time.
“I had been planning to purchase my first handgun for a few years, but I never felt like it was a necessity and therefore had trouble justifying the expense,” he said. “However, once the CV situation began to worsen, and as the lockdown spurred a huge increase in sales of firearms and ammo, I decided to go ahead and spend the money. My decision making was mostly driven by concern that the increased demand could cause shortages and increased prices, and in the worst case result in handguns becoming completely unavailable for purchase.”
COVID-19 Causes Delays
Unlike Connecticut, Oklahoma is more of a gun-friendly state. However, because of the record number of guns sales, leading to a record number of background checks, some delays were inevitable.
“Dealing with the sellers (Academy) was easy and pleasant,” he said. “However, my firearm of choice was not in stock and had to be ordered and shipped to the store, which took much longer than normal due to the lockdown.
“Also, my background check was initially delayed, preventing me from taking ownership of my gun the day of the background check. Fortunately, approval was received the next day and I was not required to wait a long time to receive the firearm that I had already paid for. But there was a delay which was frustrating, and which could have been potentially dangerous depending on my situation. Fortunately, in my case it wasn’t.”
Having already gone to the range to train with his gun a time or two, Josh is now feeling the urge to make a second gun purchase. He’s considering an AR-15 as the next addition to his household.
Preemptive Gun Buying
Another Oklahoman, Michael Riggs is a 21-year-old Tulsan who works in cannabis cultivation. The pandemic also inspired Riggs to purchase his first firearm—a Gen 4 Glock 19. The 9mm is one of the top-selling Glocks of all time and very popular for everything from concealed carry to competition. Like the others we spoke with, the pandemic—and many politicians’ response to it—were largely responsible for spurring Riggs into action.
“I bought my gun to avoid future closings and possible shortages in the future,” he said. “The actions of both political parties in relation to the Coronavirus was a big factor.”
A long-time supporter of private firearm ownership, Riggs said the pandemic certainly didn’t change his opinion on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. His purchase was very quick and about as easy as he expected. Riggs also plans to expand his fledgling gun collection soon, with a shotgun or AR next on his wish list. As far as first-time gun buyers go, he’s probably not alone.