The University of California study (pdf) sought to gauge how the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus impacted people’s tendency to worry about violence and how the pandemic effected firearm and ammunition acquisition and storage.
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.
The pandemic seems to have fueled a surge in gun ownership nationwide, with firearms manufacturers benefiting from the windfall.
“There has never been a sustained surge in firearm sales quite like what we are in the midst of,” said Jim Curcuruto, research director for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSFF), in remarks to the Financial Times.
U.S. civilians have owned about 423 million firearms between 1986 and 2018, according to NSFF estimates, which translates to around five guns for every three American adults.
So far, the CCP virus has infected over 8.5 million Americans and claimed the lives of over 225,000, according to Worldometers data. Over 5.5 million people have recovered. California, which has a population of over 39.5 million, has seen over 880,000 infections, over 17,000 deaths, and 457,000 recoveries from the virus.