She has since applied for a pistol permit and regularly hunts for increasingly rare ammunition, making three trips weekly to a local Walmart. “They’re always out,” she said.
Like groups of other first-time buyers who are adding to record sales for the U.S. gun industry this year, Garland’s decision to take up arms is motivated partially by concerning news about the coronavirus pandemic, social unrest over police killings of Black people and a potentially conflicted election that many fear could spark a civil war.
“With everything going on around us,” she said, “you see a need.”
Risings in U.S. firearm sales have in recent decades been predictably driven by events causing fears of looming gun-control legislation, such as the election of a Democratic president or a spate of mass shootings, federal gun history check data show. Industry experts and academics who study gun ownership say such surges came largely among the gun industry's center base of white, male and politically conservative customers who often already owned one or multiple guns.
That market is widening this year to include a new rush of first-time buyers, including many women, minorities and politically liberal buyers who once would not have considered gun ownership, according to Reuters interviews with more than a dozen industry experts, academics and gun store owners.
“People who don’t normally think about firearms are being forced to contemplate something outside their universe,” said Dan Eldridge, owner of Maxon Shooter’s Supplies and Indoor Range in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Illinois.
People are rightfully afraid and concerned. Antifa groups and left-leaning groups are causing mayhem and riots throughout the cities. Eruptions of violence, blockade of streets and sparking wildfires are only a bit of what they are doing.
Current events - along with fears of gun-control if Democrats take control in upcoming elections - are also driving sales among traditional customers, said Eldridge, the owner of the shooting range and supply store in suburban Chicago.
Eldridge is in the epicenter of U.S. gun-buying - driven in part by spikes of violence in Chicago and dangerous political rhetoric over its causes.
Illinois is the top state for background checks, with 5.6 million through the end of September, more than doubling the next highest state’s total.
That compared to 4.9 million background checks in Illinois for all of 2019 and 2.8 million in 2018.
“You have people sitting in their high-rise apartments and seeing the Walgreens store they go to every day get looted,” he said