Number of the Day

America’s Gun Shopping Spree, by the Numbers

Anxieties around the pandemic, protests, and the election have Americans arming themselves like never before

Photo illustration, source: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

28.8 million: That’s the number of firearm background checks conducted in the U.S. through September this year, the highest on record — and already higher than the number of background checks conducted in all of 2019, according to data from the FBI. While background checks do not represent a one-to-one correlation for gun sales, they do serve as a useful proxy for the number of guns being sold in the U.S. Anxieties around this year’s pandemic, demonstrations against police brutality, and the impending election appear to have Americans preparing themselves for the prospect of violence by buying guns in record numbers.

It’s not just guns, either. Bloomberg reports that sales of other kinds of military gear like gas masks and body armor have gone up during the pandemic, too. The possibility of increased gun control under a Biden presidency might be driving up the sales of guns, just as there was a spike in gun sales around President Obama’s election in 2008.

But it’s the specter of violence surrounding the election that seems especially scary. Earlier this week, Steve LeVine wrote in GEN about a potential election scenario involving an extended or disputed vote count that could see President Trump urging his supporters to “protect the ballot” which could be the “beginning of genuine trouble as the far-right militias and Biden supporters doubtlessly harbor very different definitions of ‘protect.’”

All that anxiety has been great news for arms manufacturers, who have seen their stocks outperform the market during the pandemic, with shares of gun makers Smith & Wesson and Vista Outdoor having more than doubled since March.

Unfortunately, the evidence shows you’re more likely to hurt yourself than protect your loved ones with a gun.

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