More Californians Own Guns than Ever Before

Study: First-time owners make up 40 percent of pandemic gun buyers

Getty Images
October 16, 2020

According to a new study, Californians have bought guns at a record pace, many for the first time, despite recent gun-store shutdowns.

The study, which a group of researchers at the University of California released in October, found that pandemic-caused uncertainty has led to increased demand for firearms in the deep blue state.

First-time owners accounted for 47,000 of the 110,000 people who bought a gun during the onset of the pandemic, the study concluded.

The study also identified several motivations, including initial gun-store lockdowns, for those buyers.

"The most common reason given for firearm acquisition in response to the pandemic was worry about lawlessness…, followed by worry about prisoner releases..., the government going too far..., government collapse..., and gun stores closing," the study's authors wrote. "Reasons for ammunition purchases in response to the pandemic were similar."

The study provides further evidence that new gun owners have driven the past seven months' record-breaking surge in gun sales, both in California and nationwide.

It also shows that despite long waits and gun-store shutdowns at the beginning of the pandemic, tens of thousands of Californians persisted to become first-time gun owners.

Those new owners may significantly impact the politics surrounding the regulation of gun ownership in America—including in deep blue states such as California.

The researchers' findings mirror those of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a gun-industry trade group. NSSF surveyed gun dealers in May and concluded that 40 percent of buyers between March and May were first-timers motivated primarily by a desire for personal defense.

The University of California researchers pulled data from the the state's Safety and Wellbeing Survey, which included 2,870 Californians over 18 years old and ran from July 14 to 27. The researchers weighed the results of the survey against state demographics.

The new study is a preprint that the medRxiv archive offered before publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

A September Washington Free Beacon analysis found that while pandemic concerns drove record sales in March, April, and May, rioting throughout major American cities in June drove the spike even higher.

Both factors have caused gun sales to remain at record levels in California and nationwide since March 2020—already surpassing total sales from 2019 and on pace to set a yearly record.

The possibility of victory for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who favors strict new gun-control measures such as banning the AR-15, will continue to drive up sales in the next several months, industry insiders argue.