NEW YORK (Dispatches) – As gun sales in the United States continued climbing amid the COVID-19 pandemic and protests, about a fifth of all Americans who bought guns last year were first-time gun owners, U.S. media said Sunday.
The New York Times quoted research data from Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center as saying that 39 percent of American households own guns, and of the new owners, half were women, a fifth were Black and a fifth were Hispanic.
The ratio of households owning guns is up from 32 percent in 2016, the Times said, quoting the General Social Survey, a public opinion poll conducted by a research center at the University of Chicago.
“While gun sales have been climbing for decades -- they often spike in election years and after high-profile crimes -- Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked,” said the Times.
In March last year, the report added, federal background checks, a rough proxy for purchases, topped one million in a week for the first time since the government began tracking them in 1998.
And the buying continued, through the protests in the summer and the election in the fall, until a week this spring broke the record with 1.2 million background checks, it said.
“There was a surge in purchasing unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Garen J. Wintemute, a gun researcher at the University of California, Davis, was quoted as saying. “Usually it slows down. But this just kept going.”
With the pandemic accelerating the trend of rising gun sales, the pace has continued this year. Americans bought more than 2.3 million guns in January, the highest since last July, and overall in the first quarter, sales jumped 18 percent, compared to the first quarter of 2020, said The Trace, a news outlet that tracks gun sales.
The research data come as two people were killed and more than 20 others injured in a mass shooting outside a club in Florida, police said on Sunday.
Miami-Dade police director Alfredo Ramirez III said law enforcement agents were looking for the assailants who opened fire outside a billiards club in Hialeah, a town to the north of Miami, at 12:30 a.m. Sunday.
“I am at the scene of another targeted and cowardly act of gun violence, where over 20 victims were shot and 2 have sadly died,” he said in a tweet.
“These are cold-blooded murderers that shot indiscriminately into a crowd and we will seek justice,” Ramirez added. “My deepest condolences to the family of the victims.”
Police said a white Nissan vehicle with three people inside pulled up to the location and opened fire with assault rifles and handguns.
CNN reported that about 20 to 25 people were taken to a number of nearby hospitals with gunshot wounds.
At least one of those injured was in critical condition.