New research through the University of California, Davis, and the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center indicates that gun sales increased by 64 percent during the first three months of the pandemic (March through the end of May 2020). The study, Firearm Purchasing and Firearm Violence in the First Months of the Coronavirus Pandemic in the United States, used data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System records. The report estimates that more than 2.1 million more guns were sold over the three-month period of what had been sold over a similar non-pandemic period. The research indicates there was also a significant increase in firearm violence.
States with higher increases in firearm purchasing were more likely to experience increased rates of firearm violence during this time than states with smaller purchasing increases, independent of other effects of the pandemic included in our models. The UC Davis research seems to align with a recent analysis published by the Brookings Institute, Three million more guns: The Spring 2020 spike in firearm sales, which included the month of June with an additional 1.4 million sales above the usual number. The UC Davis study did not cover June.
The pandemic has created an almost toxic brew of extremely high unemployment, social isolation, alienation, the shutting downs of courts, debates over law enforcement, and the significant increases and availability of guns. As the Brookings Institute article points out, a 2018 Washington Post article highlighted a new study that indicated there are more guns than people in the United States with that study indicating there were 393 million guns in the U.S. with a population of approximately 330 million people. A recent article by the Baltimore Sun indicates that crimes are actually down in the 25 biggest cities by 2 percent, yet murders are up by 16 percent.
There is also one other gun-related fact about the pandemic that is positive in a warped sense. According to reports by several news sources in April, March 2020 was the first March since 2002 when there were no mass shootings in U.S. schools. That was maybe the only benefit of schools being closed.