Throw out the stereotypes on American gun ownership. They’re just wrong.
Against the backdrop of historically high firearm sales, one major theme is shattering misconceptions that America’s gun owners are “old white men.” A surge in gun buyers across the country in 2020, more than 2.5 million since March alone, has boosted the diversity of the firearm-owning population.
While surprising to some, it’s not to those in the firearm industry. Today’s gun buyer looks more like the rest of America. They represent all walks of life and those buying firearms today increasingly are women, minorities and more urban than in previous generations.
The coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty surrounding business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders initially led to more Americans jumping off the sidelines to buy firearms. Certainly, riots and looting spurred on the trend, as did moves by politicians to bend to mob chants to defund the police. Gun retailers said as much as 40 percent of purchases have been to first-time buyers. It makes sense. Local law enforcement is stretched thin and police resources were limited. Criminals were allowed out of jail, many quickly committing crimes again. And prosecutors promised not prosecute criminals the police did arrest.
Law-abiding Americans of all walks of life watched these disturbing circumstances develop and took their safety into their own hands. Numerous examples abound of lawful gun owners standing guard in front of their homes, their businesses and their neighbor’s businesses, often deterring additional violence and crime. For any number of good reasons, women and minority firearm ownership are on the rise and growing quickly.
Maj Toure, founder of Black Guns Matter, promotes African American gun ownership and spends his time advocating firearm ownership and teaching gun safety in urban and minority communities. He spoke to Business Insider about the growth and success of his efforts. “People somehow forget that we have the right to defend our lives with firearms,” Toure said.
The National African American Gun Association boasts membership growth of 15,000 new members in 2020 so far. “A lot of times in our community, we hear a lot of our politicians, unfortunately say, don’t have a gun. You don’t need a gun,” explained NAAGA founder Philip Smith. “Well, I pushed back on that and say, that’s the very thing that we do need.”
It’s A Woman’s World
Women aren’t just standing by either. In 2003, only 13 percent of women identified as gun owners. Fast forward to 2020 and that number totals nearly 25 percent. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 25 percent of those female gun owners say self-protection is their main reason for owning a gun, and 70 percent say owning a gun is essential for their personal freedom.
After seeing a man outside her window while alone one night, 59-year old Terry Marsh said she would not be in that position again unarmed.
“It’s a very helpless feeling knowing you can’t protect yourself or your family,” Marsh said. “If I had a gun or a way to protect myself it would have given me a little bit of power and I’d have felt secure.”
Women are taking those priorities into their own hands, with home and family safety at the top of Americans’ minds during the current unsettling times. That makes sense and is a welcomed development.
Political Tides Turning
As the numbers of gun owners in America continue to swell, political issues around gun ownership and gun control will manifest these trends. First-time gun buyers have seen firsthand what roadblocks there are to their firearm purchase and are often surprised. Scott Kane, a first-time buyer from California, recently told the Washington Free Beacon about his buying troubles.
“This has taken me, a law-abiding citizen with nary an unpaid parking ticket to my name, over a month,” Kane said. “Meanwhile Joe Bad Guy has probably purchased several fully automatic AK-47s out of the back of an El Camino in a shady part of town with zero background checks. I’m seriously thinking of running for office or something. This state’s gun laws are insane.”
Candidates for political office are beginning to look more and more like the gun-owning population as well. The Wall Street Journal highlighted a record number of pro-Second Amendment women candidates embracing gun ownership and stepping forward to run for office. More than 220 women have filed to run for Congress and 50 of those have already secured their name on the November ballot.
One candidate, Genevieve Collins running in Texas, explained it bluntly. “Being a Texas woman means you know how to shoot, clean, and eat your kill in one day, then throw on your dress and work a boardroom the next.”
As gun control groups like billionaire Michael Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action clamor for more gun control, increasingly more voices of a diverse American gun owner are responding. The impacts will be significant on the future of Second Amendment rights in America.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.