CHANTILLY, Virginia – Like many Americans, two women thousands of miles apart are each concerned about the uncertain state of the nation. Their reasons are quite different. But they found common ground and a sense of certainty in a recent purchase: a gun.
Ann-Marie Saccurato traced her purchase to the night she was dining at a sidewalk restaurant not long ago in Delray Beach, Fla., When a Black Lives Matter walk took place and her mind started to wander.
It only takes one person to start a riot when emotions run high, she recalls thinking. What if the police are under control and cannot control the crowd?
Ashley Johnson, in Austin, Texas, is worried about footage she has seen in recent weeks of armed militias showing up at rallies and making plans to kidnap governors. The election result, she believes, will be devastating for some people, regardless of who wins.
“Maybe I’m just watching the news too much, but there are hints of civil war depending on who wins,” Ms. Johnson said. “It’s a lot to deal with.”
In America, spikes in gun purchases are often motivated by fear. But in recent years, that anxiety has focused on fears that politicians will pass tighter gun controls. Mass shootings often lead to more arms sales for this reason, as do elections for the Liberal Democrats.
Many gun buyers now say they’re driven by a new, destabilizing sense that drives even people who saw themselves as anti-guns to buy guns for the first time – and those who already have to buy them. buy more.
The country is on track in 2020 to store at record rates, according to groups tracking background checks from FBI data. Across the country, Americans bought 15.1 million firearms in the seven months of this year, from March to September, a 91% jump from the same period in 2019, according to estimates by Seasonally adjusted firearms sales from The Trace, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on firearms. problems. The FBI also processed more background checks for firearms purchases in the first nine months of 2020 than in any previous full year, according to FBI data.
FBI data shows sales increased earlier this year as virus fears spread. And big increases in sales are apparently happening everywhere: The states with the smallest increase in sales in September, for example, were Alaska and North Dakota, each up about a third from September 2019. 198% from September 2019 and in New Jersey, up 180%, according to The Trace estimates.
It is difficult to know exactly who is buying guns at any given time in America. Gun shop owners, gun rights groups and gun lobbies say they are now selling more guns than usual to black buyers, and women in particular, and more guns to new gun owners in general.
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“The year 2020 has been just one long publicity as to why someone might want to have a gun to defend themselves,” said Douglas Jefferson, vice president of the National African American Gun Association, which has experienced the largest increase in membership this year since the group was formed in 2015.
The influx of new guns into American homes is troubling at a time when many people are under incredible job stress and spikes in coronavirus cases, said Kris Brown, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and who noted that suicide and domestic violence is increasing.
On the issue of gun control, the division has long been partisan. Concealed carry laws, the ban on high capacity magazines, and allowing teachers to carry guns to school have separated many Republicans from Democrats. A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that Republicans and Independents who lean Republican were more than twice as likely as Democrats and Independents who democratically lean to own a gun.
But when it comes to gun ownership, there is something uniquely American that transcends party membership and social boundaries – letting liberals and conservatives scramble for ammunition because they want to prepare for whatever is to follow.
“It’s a giant ‘you never know’ room,” said Bert Davis, watching people flocking to a Virginia convention hall to browse guns earlier this month at the Nation’s Gun Show, the one of the biggest events of its kind.
Mr. Davis was surrounded by tables displaying AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, Bunny-shaped brass knuckles, pistols engraved with American flags and President Trump’s face, booklets with headlines like “Be Prepared For Anything.”
A human resources worker for the city of Richmond, Virginia, Mr. Davis had come to the show with his sister Toni Jackson, who had struggled to find 9-millimeter ammunition in local gun stores; they were all sold.
At the show, glittering golden circles were on sale by the thousands.
“Everyone arms up against their neighbor,” Ms. Jackson said, looking at the many other buyers, strollers and wheelchairs, one in a Black Lives Matter mask, the other in a Keep America Great mask. and a line for background checks that meandered the length of the room. “It fuels the country’s separatism.”
Ms Jackson bought her first gun about three years ago, a small .380 caliber handgun, because her property management job required her to handle large sums of money. Recently, she made a down payment on a more powerful 9 millimeter pistol which she believes will provide better protection.
“What’s going on in the country right now, I’m afraid of being alone as a black woman,” Ms. Jackson said, describing the unrest in her town of Richmond and beyond. “There are a lot of people who are not necessarily happy that Confederate monuments have been demolished.”
Other buyers said they bought a gun because they feared calls to dispel police could be heard. Some said they were afraid of the police. Some were afraid that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would become president. Others feared four more years of President Trump.
Don Woodson oversaw the Trojan Arms and Tactical array of dozens of black, pink, and Tiffany Turquoise 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistols. He estimated that 70% of his sales at the show went to new gun owners, many of whom told him they were afraid of rioters.
“People who would never have had weapons before,” he said. “Now they are looking for safety.”
Two aisles down was Larry Burns, wearing a Keep America Great mask and a Trump 2020 t-shirt. He said he would take action if he saw protesters spiraling out of control.
“If they start hurting people, I’m going to hurt my back,” said Burns, who owns two shotguns. “I have lived my life. I will sacrifice myself for my grandchildren.
The uncertainty in the gun lounge aisles is what Charrie DeRosa hears at her private shooting range in Palm Beach County, Florida.
“Every person who walks in says I don’t know what’s going on in the world,” said Ms. DeRosa, who offers gun safety training. “People are just nervous and looking for some kind of security. “
It was a feeling that weighed heavily on Ms. Saccurato’s mind when she was having dinner and the Black Lives Matter walk passed.
She had seen reports of violence in towns as demonstrators gathered. She understood why people walked and thought George Floyd’s death was horrific. But the violence that followed, the damage, the rage against the police, she said, “was even more disgusting.” Ms Saccurato, 43, who trains athletes for a living, is white and has friends in law enforcement. They are good people, she said, and they don’t get the respect they deserve.
“They are placed in situations where they cannot handle things as effectively and efficiently as they want,” Ms. Saccurato said. “And if this happens to them, where does it put me?”
Watching the protesters that evening, she decided it was time to get a permit and buy a gun. His new weapon: a Sig Sauer p365-XL 9 millimeter pistol.
Ms Johnson didn’t grow up in a house with guns. About a year ago, she moved to Austin, which she saw as a bold step for someone who had never lived outside of her family in North Carolina.
In the spring, when the virus began to spread, she found herself alone in a relatively new town while everyone was in hiding with families. And as a buyer for a grocery store, she was at the end of the havoc all panic buying wreaked on the supply chain.
“I saw it firsthand,” she says.
After Mr Floyd was killed by police in May, Ms Johnson decided to take part in protests sweeping the country. The only march she attended this summer was in broad daylight, but she was anxious.
“I wholeheartedly understand wanting to protect your business,” she said of those condemning property damage during protests. “As a black man, am I like, a broken window against a life?”
Soon after, a friend invited her to a shooting range for a gun safety class. She was nervous holding a gun for the first time. Take control, the instructor told him. Don’t let anyone rush you. She fired. She came back to the beach several times.
Then she watched the first presidential debate and heard Mr. Trump refuse to disown white supremacists.
“I just thought if he lost this election something was going to happen and I just needed protection,” she said.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, between a grocery run to fill up her new crockpot and watch football on TV, Ms Johnson walked past the gun store and purchased a Ruger SR22 semi-automatic pistol.