Angel Rambert, 26, bought her first gun on Monday after weekend protests tore through Atlanta demolishing storefronts and stirring civil unrest.
An AT&T store across from her apartment in Buckhead, Georgia, was ransacked, Rambert said. And owning a gun would give her a greater sense of safety.
“During the times we’re living in, you just never know what might happen,” Rambert said.
She was met with long lines at two nearby gun shops when she went to purchase a pistol. “At first, I was surprised at the number of people, but I was happy to see so many of us exercising our amendments,” Rambert said.
She is part of a wave of Americans shopping for firearms as protests erupt across the country triggered by the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, who was unarmed when a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to his neck.
Gun and ammunition sales have lifted since mid-March when the pandemic was declared. And higher-than-average sales continued through May. Now, there are signs that gun sales may start to surge again in June.
Local media in Alabama reported an uptick in gun sales on Monday after peaceful protests took place in downtown Birmingham. And gun stores in the Los Angeles area also have had customers lining up to buy, captured across news reports.
On Monday evening, President Trump announced he would deploy the U.S. military to stop the “riots and lawlessness,” further stimulating the public’s interest in weapons.
“I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights,” Trump said during the speech in the Rose Garden as noise from nearby protests erupted in the background.
Voters on both sides of the aisle saw the statement as motivation to go out and purchase firearms with many tweeting variations of “time to buy a gun” on Tuesday.
There is typically a surge of gun sales surrounding natural disasters, mass shootings or political speeches about gun reform and the right to bear firearms, according to Daniel O’Kelly, director of the gun consulting company International Firearm Specialist Academy.
“You often see an upsurge during political elections or impending gun legislation,”
O’Kelly said. “You’ll see it again when there’s some type of unrest or uncertainty.”
During the last week of May, firearm sales were up 78% over 2019, according to an analysis by the small business software firm Womply. Weekly revenue at firearm and sporting goods stores has been up more than 50% year-over-year since the week of March 15, Womply found.
The online ammunition website Ammo.com said it saw a 602% increase in revenue during the pandemic, with people in Texas, Florida and Illinois ordering the most provisions.
Nancy Brown, 54, of Gardner, Massachusetts, is a long-time gun owner who bought $1,400 worth of new firearms and ammo to protect her family in response to the protests.
“I have always owned guns, but I’m stocking up just in case things get uglier than they are right now,” Brown said. “I also want to make sure I can protect my neighbors if things pop off.”
Americans aren’t just loading up on weapons, they’re also seeking training on how to use them.
The International Firearm Specialist Academy website saw a 50% rise in people taking online training courses during the pandemic, O’Kelly said. The classes teach gun safety standards and how to identify specific gun models.
“We had to cancel five in-person training seminars, but then we had an upsurge in digital training,” O’Kelly said.
Beverly Baxter in Bell County, Texas, picked out her first gun in late March. “It was a little, cute purple one,” she said. In June, she’s taking lessons at a local gun range to learn how to use it.
“I’ve always been scared to handle one,” Baxter said. “But it’s scary watching what’s going on.”
Wall Street is also responding to the protests fueled by the police killing of Floyd and the recent spur in gun sales.
Shares of several gun and ammo makers surged on Tuesday, bolstered by a rise in background checks, before falling again on Wednesday.
Smith & Wesson Brands’ stock was up over 11% on Tuesday, numbers not seen since October 2018, before dropping 3% on Wednesday. Ammunition maker Vista Outdoor’s stock was up over 7% but dropped to 3.4% on Wednesday.
The spark in investor interest came after, the FBI reported that there were over 3 million background checks last month, the highest for any May on record. The agency does not track actual gun sales, as multiple firearms can be included in a single transaction.
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