As a new wave of gun violence continues to impact the United States, with mass shootings seemingly occurring on a daily basis, a troubling new report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) brings race into the gun ownership debate.
According to the firearm industry trade association’s report, despite the murders and deaths continually making the headlines, there was a nearly 60% increase in the sale of firearms to Black men and women in 2020 alone. And among new gun owners of all races last year, 8.4 million American men and women purchased a personal firearm for the first time.
“We had been seeing the market shift over time,” said Mark Oliva, Director of Public Affairs for the Firearm Industry Trade Association in an interview with Larry Miller of CBS affiliate WUSA in Washington, D.C. “It was looking less like me [a white man] and more like the rest of America. We’re seeing more African Americans, more Hispanics, more Asian Americans, and we’re seeing more women buy guns.”
Oliva attributed the spike in gun purchases to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in police violence and desire for social justice reform in the nation and an overall feeling of civil unrest among many people.
Miller added that “many of these new gun owners are finding support and community from several gun rights organizations including The National African American Gun Association better known as NAAGA. It boasts 45,000 members nationwide since its inception in 2015.”
Philip Smith, founder and president of NAAGA, told WUSA that many people he knew who were on the fence about buying a gun decided to take the leap and finally do it last year.
“Once COVID-19 hit, that was the line in the sand,” Smith said. “You had to sit there and say, ‘Is there going to be a total breakdown of social order? Is there going to be food for my family? Will we have gas? Will everything crumble in our general society and will we literally have to fight people off?'”
Miller said that Janice Dalton, a Black woman and new gun owner he interviewed in Glen Bernie, Maryland, personified what many across the nation appeared to be feeling.
“I thought it was important to have an additional level of protection,” Dalton told him. “I wanted to be knowledgeable about firearms. I wanted to gain confidence about navigating my personal life, professional life and security. That sense of security is really important.”
Still, gun control advocates are quick to cite the startling statistics and warn that every gun sold in the country only increases our overall potential for future deaths and disaster. During the first four months of 2021 alone, there have been 13,855 deaths in the country due to gun-related violence. Of those deaths, 6,067 were homicides, murders or otherwise unintentional killings. There have also been 7,788 suicides where a gun was used, 11,049 gun-related injuries, 166 mass shootings and more than 300 children under the age of 11 killed or injured by firearms.