Two million guns were purchased in the U.S. in March, the second-busiest month ever for gun sales, reports the New York Times. The total trails only January 2013, just after President Barack Obama’s re-election and the mass shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. With some people fearful that the pandemic could lead to civil unrest, gun sales have skyrocketed. In the past, fear of gun-buying restrictions has been the main driver of spikes in gun sales, far surpassing the effects of mass shootings and terrorist attacks. Sales rose sharply in December 2015 after Obama tried to make it harder to buy assault weapons after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Ca.
Last month was different. As they prepare for an uncertain future, Americans have been crowding grocery stores to stock up on household essentials like canned beans and toilet paper. A similar worry is driving gun sales. “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,” said Georgia State law Prof. Timothy Lytton, a expert on the gun industry. “They may have an anxiety about protecting themselves if the organs of state are starting to erode.” Several gun-related incidents have been linked to fears surrounding the pandemic. Last week, Alpharetta, Ga., police arrested a man for pointing a gun at two women wearing medical masks and gloves because he feared he might contract the virus. A New Mexico man was charged with the accidental shooting death of his 13-year-old cousin with a gun he was carrying “for protection” amid the outbreak. A Maine man with a felony conviction who said he needed to protect himself during the outbreak was charged with illegally possessing a firearm.