Georgia’s typical gun owner may no longer be the stereotypical white male, according to local gun shops and ranges in Northeast Georgia. Since March, Georgia firearm retailers have noticed an influx in first-time gun buyers, many of whom are women and people of color.Why It’s Newsworthy: Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, firearm sales in Georgia are the highest they have ever been, and more first-time buyers are purchasing guns.
According to data collected by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Georgia’s firearm sales rose to 63,496 in April of 2020. This marks a 153% increase from firearm sales in April of last year.
Spikes in gun sales are not unique to Georgia. According to a survey conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a record 10.3 million firearm transactions have been processed nationwide in the first half of 2020.
Of those transactions, retailers have reported that the demographic growing the most is Black men and women. However, it is worth noting that there is not a large disparity between Black gun buyers and other groups.
Ian McGaughey, an employee at Franklin’s Gun Shop in Athens, said Black men made up about half of Franklin’s customer base before the pandemic started.
“We have always seen just as many Black males as we do white males,” McGaughey said. “I think that it has just has to do with the demographic of the surrounding area.”
Trading Places Pawn and Indoor Range, a gun shop in Monroe, Georgia, experiences a similar racial makeup of customers.
Blake Teague, an employee at Trading Place, said, “We have a very good relationship with the people around us and thankfully our customers reflect our community.”
First-Time Gun Buyers
It is hard to definitively say that Black men and women represent the largest increase in gun buyers in north Georgia, but both McGaughey and Teague agree that first-time buyers have been their most common customer since March.
Teague said most first-time buyers are looking to buy a gun for protection.
“There is a sense of fear that runs all across the board right now,” Teague said, “whether you are conservative, liberal, Black, white or Asian.”
Everybody seems to be paranoid of every other person,” said Teague.
McGaughey even recalls a family that came into Franklin’s around late March who spent over $5,000 on firearms in case they had to start hunting for their own food.
According to McGaughey, panic-buying is a knee-jerk reaction to store closures and toilet paper shortages depicted in the media.
Women are Buying More Guns, Too
Both Franklin’s and Trading Place have seen more women buying guns than ever before.
A 2015 National Firearms Survey discovered the percentage of female gun owners is rising while the percentage of male gun owners is decreasing.
McGaughey said he’s not just seeing white women, but also women of color carrying firearms.
“I like to see women carrying because it is the greatest equalizer that exists,” McGaughey said.
Projected Firearm Sales
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System has not yet released any data regarding November’s firearm sales, but Teague and McGaughey predict that we will see another spike in sales.
Historically, demands for firearms surge after events, such as presidential elections and mass shootings. McGaughey thinks that this election will result in surges because Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the election.
According to Teague, it’s not just Republicans that rush to purchase firearms after elections. He predicts that people of all backgrounds will continue to buy guns because of the uncertainty of our country’s future.
Kate Ross is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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