This was the second-highest sales numbers ever seen in the U.S. for firearms, surpassed only by the January after then U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election, which was also when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred. And while more guns were sold in January 2013, the numbers are actually extremely close—with roughly two million guns sold during each time period.
The data used in the report from the Times was based on the number of background checks reported by the FBI, so it is likely that the actual numbers are even higher because background checks are not required in every state. The FBI has been tracking monthly gun sales in the U.S. since 1998.
Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University, believes that people are preparing for civil unrest which has reportedly already begun in places like Italy.
“People are nervous that there’s a certain amount of civil disorder that might come if huge numbers of people are sick and a huge number of institutions are not operating normally. They may have an anxiety about protecting themselves if the organs of state are starting to erode,” Lytton told the Times.
This week, U.S. President Donald Trump included gun stores, shooting ranges, and firearm and ammunition manufacturers in a list of essential businesses that can remain open during the lockdown.
According to Politico, the move came in response to backlash from firearm owners and activists after gun shops around the country began to receive shutdown orders from state governments. Gun rights organizations have argued that people need access to firearms now more than ever with the looming threat of civil unrest on the horizon and thousands of police officers across the country out of work due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.