Sun, 27 Sep 2020

by Peter Mertz

DENVER, the United States, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- Americans are arming themselves to the teeth like never before.

The number of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks -- the barometer of Americans buying guns -- hit another record in July when 3.6 million Americans were loaded up.

Since 1998, the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has processed 300 million checks. Only one in 200 checks is denied, according to the FBI data.

In NICS' 22-year history, March, June and July of this year are the three biggest gun sale months.

"We were up 89 percent in July over last year," a manager at Westminster Arms, a gun dealer north of downtown Denver, said on condition of anonymity on Thursday. "We are selling 60 handguns a day, and last year, it was only 30 -- that's the comparison."

Not only have handguns become popular at one of metro Denver's bigger dealers, but rapid-fire, semi-automatic rifles are hotter than ever, the manager told Xinhua.

The military-grade AR-17 and M-15 series have been Winchester Arm's top rifle sellers, but the newest buyer trend is AR pistols, which can fire 30 rounds of ammunition with one pull of the trigger.

They are sold faster than the Austrian-made Glock, which remains only a few hours in the glass showcases at Westminster Arms.

A few miles southwest of Westminster, a manager at Green Mountain Guns in Lakewood told Xinhua they were having "shortages on all types of guns, especially 9-millimeter handguns and semi-automatic weapons."

Green Mountain Guns told customers to order online because of heavy traffic at the store.

According to a study released last month by the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution, over the past decade, the three biggest spikes in gun sales were triggered by national tragedies.

The first major spike occurred in January 2013, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which 20 first-grade children were shot to death in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. The second occurred after the massive San Bernardino shooting in 2016 in California, and the most recent was in 2018 after the Parkland High School mass murders in Florida.

"When Americans are concerned about their personal security, they buy firearms," said the Brookings study.

"Such concerns have been rampant since March, initially due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and then the social unrest in June that followed George Floyd's killing," it noted.

Indeed, June set the all-time record for NCSI checks with 3.9 million after riots exploded across America, and in many cities across the globe, as millions protested against police brutality.

"It is a documented fact that racism has been on the rise since (U.S. President Donald) Trump took office," noted David B. Richardson, a policy analyst.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported in June that there were surging reports of xenophobic and racist incidents targeting members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the U.S.

Not only Asian-Americans, but attacks against all minority groups, especially members of the LGBT community, have been on the rise, the ADL reported.

"Trump is the darling of far-right extremist groups and has intentionally incited his gun-toting base to exacerbate the fear," Richardson told Xinhua on Thursday.

Right after COVID-19 hit in March, America set the all-time record with 3.74 million background checks, but Brookings scholars saw even more fear generated by racial conflict -- hence the all-time gun sales record of 3.92 million checks in June.

"Additional data suggests that inherent racial tensions in our society also contributed to the June spike in firearm sales," the study noted.

"Pandemic and Protests Spark Record Gun Sales," the headline on National Public Radio (NPR) confirmed last month.

The protests "are driving millions of Americans to buy guns at a record pace. New customers are people of all different races and income levels," NPR said.

Media analysts agreed that the double shot of COVID-19 and the grizzly murder of Floyd sparked the gun frenzy.

"Creating fear, anger, and unrest are the first tactics on Trump's political strategy. In this way he can distract Americans from the real issues at hand and it will all help his chances to be elected," Richardson said.

Last week, Trump finally withdrew federal troops from the liberal city of Portland, Oregon, after weeks of violence and riots that many said were simply exacerbated by the president's move.

In Denver, vandalism and violence diminished quickly when police reversed heavy-handed tactics to deal with protesters.

Media images of cities burning and protesting after Floyd's death and calls to disband local police caused many conservatives and first-time buyers to muzzle up.

"Instead of showing leadership and calming the waters, Trump has done the opposite -- sowed division and inspired people to arm themselves," Richardson said.

"Some people are looking to take care of business...if things get worse," he said, adding concerns over the current acrimonious U.S. political climate, and the far-right's calls for a "revolution."

"Trump and the right-wing media's constant villainizing of democrats, liberals and the left has furthered the polarization of the country, and the fact-free environment he and his followers occupy leave them looking like lost, ignorant people in the eyes of the world," Richardson added.

More London News

Access More

Sign up for The London News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!