USA

New York gun sales spiked 121 percent in June, study finds

New Yorkers are arming themselves at a record pace.

They bought more guns this June than any other June in the past decade, data show. The FBI ran 52,252 background checks for people seeking to buy firearms in the state, a 121 percent increase from June 2019. Most, or 31,003 background checks, were for people seeking to buy a rifle. Handguns accounted for 11,585 background checks in June this year. 

Cliff Pfleger, owner of Long Island Gun Source, said the Medford store has been so busy he sold six to nine months of inventory in just a 2-month period. Pfleger closed the store briefly after the state shuttered businesses in mid-March, but he was able to secure essential business-status and reopened about a week later.

“When the original COVID scare started in the beginning of March and people thought they might get laid off, at that point we saw a huge surge. We sold out of almost everything we had in the store,” he said, noting many first-time gun buyers opt to buy rifles in order to bypass the license needed for handguns.

“We had lines continuously, even though we didn’t have things to sell,” he said. “The people who are coming to the store — a lot of them were first-time firearm purchasers, and they obviously did not apply or have a handgun license,” Pfleger said.

At the same time gun purchases soared, so did shootings. New York saw 205 shootings in June — the bloodiest June in 24 years, going back to 1996, when the NYPD logged 236 incidents, the department said.

A man testing a semi-automatic weapon at the underground range at Rise, Rockland Indoor Shooting and Education.
A man testing a semi-automatic weapon at the underground range at Rise, Rockland Indoor Shooting and Education.J.C.Rice

Researchers at the University of California Davis estimate that an extra 2.1 million guns sold nationwide between March and May this year are linked to 776 gun-related injuries that would not have occurred without the sales spike. 

“During the coronavirus pandemic, an acute increase in firearm access is associated with an increase in firearm violence,” the researchers wrote. 

A second study, by the Brookings Institute, suggests there are 3 million extra guns as a result of the pandemic and protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. 

Nationally, the number of gun buys increased 64 percent between March and May, compared to previous years, the UC Davis team found in the study released last month. It examined FBI background checks for firearm purchases in 48 states and correlated them with gun violence.

Historically, gun sales have spiked amid threats of new restrictions on access to firearms, the Brookings Institute wrote. After former President Barack Obama called for new restrictions on guns in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting, sales exceeded the expected surge by a whopping 3 million purchases, the study says.

But this year’s gun rush was driven by personal safety, opposed to limitations on access, Brookings found. 

A man testing out a gun at Rise, Rockland Indoor Shooting and Education,.
A man testing out a gun at Rise, Rockland Indoor Shooting and Education,.J.C.Rice

Following President Trump declaring a national emergency on March 13, daily gun sales climbed to 120,000 and peaked at 176,000 three days later. In January and February, the average number of daily sales hovered at around 90,000.

After George Floyd’s killing on May 25, daily gun sales surged to 150,000 by June 2 — and remained steady throughout the month, according to Brookings.

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