A new study has found that concerns about the pandemic drove a surge in gun sales in California and increased owners' propensity to store their firearms loaded and not locked up.
Researchers found that about 110,000 people in California recently bought firearms and did so out of pandemic-related worries, while around 47,000 of them had never previously owned a gun.
The study also found that 6.7 percent of those California gun owners who store their firearms loaded and not locked up adopted this storage practice in response to the outbreak. The researchers indicated that this corresponds to over 50,000 individuals, or around 1.2 percent of all of California's estimated 4.2 million gun owners.
People who purchased firearms during the outbreak cited concerns over lawlessness, prisoner releases, the government going too far, government collapse, and gun stores closing, according to the study.
“Violence is a significant public health problem that has become entwined with the coronavirus pandemic,” the researchers wrote, noting that the virus itself and “efforts to lessen its spread have compounded this burden.” Lockdown-related isolation, unemployment, and a sense of hopelessness—factors the researchers said contribute to violence—all intensified amid the pandemic.
Concern about violence grew amid the outbreak, with the percentage of respondents saying they were somewhat or very worried about violence rising from 48.4 percent to 52.2 percent. Over 12 percent of respondents said they were fearful that someone they know might intentionally harm themselves or another person.
"While most major news sources reported initial decreases in violent crime, as measured by local police calls for service, following pandemic-related lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, the latest indications are that more serious acts of violence, particularly those involving firearms, have remained the same or increased," the researchers wrote.