When Americans panic, they buy guns — lots of them. During the first six months of 2020, amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, gun retailers reported a record 10.3 million firearm transactions, according to a new survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). And while various demographic groups are buying guns in 2020, African-Americans currently account for the highest increase in gun purchases.
WHITNEY DAVIS: My name is Whitney Davis. I'm from Houston, Texas, and I own two guns. The main reason I did buy my gun is for home defense. Police are great if there is any kind of robbery or break-in, but again, that it's kind of reactionary. And when you're in the moment, you have to defend yourself. So I feel a lot more safer having my gun than [INAUDIBLE] now. I've always wanted a gun. With the pandemic and just kind of the Black Lives Matter protests that's been going on, it kind of lit a fire underneath me to get it sooner.
MICHAEL CARGILL: My name is Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works. Ever since March, we've had a dramatic increase of people come into the gun store-- I would say it's tripled-- wanting to purchase a firearm. They're coming in with their-- their family. Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends coming in to purchase a gun and also get the training.
A lot of businesses are shutting down because of COVID, and so people are afraid that someone was going to possibly break into their home and-- and start maybe take their stuff because they were lacking in supplies and toilet paper, whatever it was. In June, we started protesting. There were riots and things of that nature, and people were concerned with people break into their home and-- or break into their vehicle or attacking them while they're in their vehicles traveling about the country.
So people wanted to take their own personal protection in their own hands. And now we're-- we're faced with the possibility of people thinking of defunding the police, and that has people concerned as well. So they're thinking, OK, we're going to have to take our personal safety in our own hands. People that have never purchased a gun before, never thought about a gun, people that have been anti-gun are walking into the gun store, buying a gun, getting the training, and starting to carry their firearm.
WHITNEY DAVIS: And I do realize in this country a long time ago, black people weren't even allowed to own guns. So just like people promote our ancestors died for us to vote, they also died for us to be able to carry guns as well. So I wanted to feel what I wasn't-- what my ancestors weren't able to do in the past.
MICHAEL CARGILL: I think the black community is educating themselves. They are-- they're educating themselves on the history of gun control. They're understanding that gun control first started in the 1800s. In the 1800s, the-- they came out and said, OK, we're going to make sure freed slaves cannot have access to guns. And then they started regulating handguns. That's where gun control started. It started with the Jim Crow laws. And so people are realizing this, OK, every time there's a gun law that's targeting a certain group of people, usually the African-American people.
So they're saying, OK, every time someone wants to restrict a gun or tell me I can't have something, that's usually targeting the black community. And so a light has gone off. And with everything going on, they said, OK, well, we better make sure that we're legal with this firearm. Want to make sure we know what the law is. Want to make sure we know where we can take it, where we can't take it. And we want to make sure that we understand the use of force and deadly force that's the Castle Doctrine, and also the Stand Your Ground laws.
WHITNEY DAVIS: I'm a firm believer, guns don't kill people, people kill people. And, you know, even in London or Great Britain, they don't have guns, but, you know, they have stabbings. So if it's not going to be guns, it's going to be something else.
MICHAEL CARGILL: And I feel the country is definitely a lot more safer with people having more guns. My mantra is, more guns equals less crime. And so I do believe that the more people purchase firearms, the more people get the training, I think that's going to make us for a safer society.
WHITNEY DAVIS: If everybody knows that everybody has a gun, then you-- maybe you're a lot less likely to attack people or to hurt people. Because, you know, if you got a gun, I got one too. So we-- it's a equal playing field. Honestly, that's how I feel.
MICHAEL CARGILL: I want to educate everyone so everyone knows what the laws are. And so when you do see that black male walking down the street carrying a gun, they're not surprised. Me, today, I walk into a bank, I have a face mask on, and I'm openly carrying a handgun. And I want that to, you know, to look normal to see a black guy walking into a bank with a face mask carrying a gun.