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Dealers Report Surge in Gun Ownership Among Blacks

Survey shows that African Americans helped drive record gun sales in 2020

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African Americans have been a major driver of 2020's record-setting growth in new gun ownership, according to an industry survey.

Gun dealers reported a 58.2 percent increase in black customers in 2020—the most rapid growth of any ethnic group, according to a survey from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which represents gun makers and dealers. More than eight million guns have been sold in 2020, according to background-check records, and many purchasers are first-time gun owners.

"It has been well known inside the industry that purchasers of guns and ammunition have long had diverse demographic backgrounds," the NSSF said in a statement on the survey. "The highest overall firearm sales increase comes from black men and women who show a 58.2 percent increase in purchases during the first six months of 2020 versus the same period last year."

The numbers indicate firearms ownership in the United States continues to diversify. The changing demographics of gun ownership could have a significant impact on the politics surrounding guns—especially with millions of Americans becoming new gun owners in the months that followed the coronavirus outbreak. The growth in gun ownership was not limited to black customers. The survey found white customers increased by 51.9 percent, Hispanic customers by 49.4 percent, and Asian customers by 42.9 percent.

"Throw out the stereotypes on American gun ownership," Larry Keane, spokesman and general counsel of NSSF, said in a statement. "Against the backdrop of historically high firearm sales, one major theme is shattering misconceptions that America’s gun owners are ‘old white men.' A surge in gun buyers across the country in 2020, more than 2.5 million since March alone, has boosted the diversity of the firearm-owning population."

The NSSF found that minorities made up a disproportionately high share of gun store customers in the first half of 2020. The survey found that white Americans accounted for 72.4 percent of gun buyers, despite making up 76.3 percent of the population, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The new NSSF survey comes after the National African American Gun Association saw a record-breaking surge in membership after George Floyd was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in May. NSSF said the surge was not surprising, as the industry has tracked rising gun ownership among women and minority groups for years. A survey from the group conducted between 2008 and 2012 found that new shooters "are younger, female and more urban dwelling when compared to established target shooters, or those participating for more than five years."

Keane said the gun industry's attempts to appeal to new shooters over the past several years, combined with the desire by many Americans from all different backgrounds to protect themselves during uncertain times, have led to a more representative gun-owning population.

"Today’s gun buyer looks more like the rest of America," Keane said in the statement. "They represent all walks of life and those buying firearms today increasingly are women, minorities, and more urban than in previous generations."