World news – With arms sales soaring, health professionals are calling for safety education


Firearms exhibited at Legendary Guns in Phoenix in 2018. The FBI processed a record 39.7 million background checks of firearms last year, prompting health professionals to ask for more security clarifications to prevent injury or death. (File photo by Daria Kadovik / Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – An escalation in gun sales over the past year, partly caused by new gun owners, is causing some health professionals to pay more attention to gun safety and the relationship between gun ownership and injury or suicide In 2020, the FBI processed a record 39.7 million background checks for firearms, one of the best measures of likely sales. The week of March 16-22 – shortly after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic and then a national emergency – is the first week of background checks since the agency’s immediate system started in November 1998.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms industry, estimates more than 8 million people bought guns for the first time in the past year, and experts cite pandemic concerns and the presidential election as the main drivers of rising sales.

Perelman School researchers of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania call for action to prevent injury or death from firearms.

Increased safety education « is important to address the potential downstream adverse effects of increased gun ownership in terms of injury and suicide prevention, » the researchers wrote recently in JAMA Network Open.

They pointed to a study that found that some California gun owners had used less secure storage methods during the pandemic and chose to keep guns loaded and unlocked. Respondents cited concerns about pandemic lawlessness or prisoner releases and the collapse of the government as reasons for their purchases.

Experts note that the surge in arms sales coincided with mounting psychological distress caused by isolation, economic worries, and health concerns related to COVID-19. Studies show that depression, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide all got worse during the pandemic.

A study in the Journal of Psychiatric Research surveyed 3,500 Americans last June and July about their intent to buy firearms and found that those who did so had more serious and greater concerns about COVID-19 Likely some had kind of suicidal thoughts the previous year.

« The 2020 increase in gun purchases does not guarantee a subsequent epidemic of suicidal deaths, but it definitely increases the risk, » wrote the authors Craig Bryan, a psychologist who has programs on trauma and trauma Directs suicide prevention at Ohio State University; and Michael Anestis, executive director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center.

Gun violence is one of the country’s most pressing health crises. In 2019, nearly 40,000 people died from firearms – the majority of suicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to CDC data, the gun death rate in Arizona was 27% above the national average in 2019. That year, 1,136 people died from firearms – 70% of them suicides. White people were much more likely to die of gun-related suicide in the state, while Blacks and Native Americans were statistically overrepresented among the murder victims.

The Gun Violence Archive, an online database of real-time incidents, estimates that the number of Gun deaths exceeded 43,000 in 2020.

In North Phoenix, Veerachart Murphy, owner of Ammo AZ, said firearms and ammunition sales in his business doubled from 2019 to 2020 – to US $ 13 million Dollars – and at least some of it was driven by first-time buyers.

« It started with COVID first, » Murphy said, attributing the surge to the same hoarding mentality that led to the use of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. « We saw it probably happened in mid-February when everyone came in here and just went crazy. »

« There is a change in administration, so a lot of people are afraid that the AR-15 and AK-47 will be banned » he said.

Gun shop owners and researchers also cite the high-profile police killings of black men and women last year and the subsequent racial justice protests as drivers of increasing sales. Industry groups estimate that black people’s purchase of guns has increased 56% compared to 2019.

« We have seen a trend for more and more African Americans to express their rights under the Second Amendment to the possession of a firearm, particularly for personal protection, » said Philip Smith, President and Founder of the National African American Gun Association, in a press release.

As the FBI’s background check statistics show, gun sales often rise during times of crisis – such as mass shootings. December 2012, the month of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, Connecticut, had record sales months in 16 states, and in December 2015, the month of the San Bernardino shooting, six states posted sales records on, according to an analysis by the security company.

25 states had record sales months in 2020 – 16 of them in March when bans began, according to According to the FBI, Arizona had a record of 665,458 background checks of firearms in 2020.

« It’s a classic panic buying case, » said Apache Junction’s 25-year-old target shooter Andre Philippin, recalling increases in sales after Democrat Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 and gun owners were concerned about new restrictions.

« People feared that new gun laws would be introduced that would restrict or limit the amount of guns or ammunition a person could buy, » Philippin said. « The same kind of fear and paranoia re-emerged in 2020. »

President Joe Biden has vowed to urge Congress to enact stricter gun laws, including calling for background checks on all gun sales and a ban on offensive weapons and high capacity magazines.

« We’re going to take action to end our gun violence epidemic and make our schools and communities safer, « Biden said in a statement last month on the third anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The 21-year-old student and Arizona State University recreational shooter Ethan Happ sees two reasons for soaring gun sales.

« It’s kind of a two-part problem, half of which is due to the pandemic, » he said. « Then there are the people who buy guns and ammunition because they believe the new government will take that freedom away. »

In a post last month on the Facebook group Cave Creekers Infamous Bulletin Board, a woman noted found that a local Cabela ammunition store was so out of stock that her husband asked what was going on. « The answer he got was » The Civil War. «  »

As arms sales rose, so did some violent crime categories. The number of murders in Phoenix rose 52% from 2019 to 2020, according to police, reflecting a 175% increase in domestic violence-related murders.

Emma Ascott expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2021. She has worked for State Press, Entercom Communications and the Hertel Report.

Luis Torres expects to do a Masters degree in May 2021. Torres is senior writer for Nice Kicks digital publication and editor-in-chief at Manor Phoenix, a local boutique.

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