A flood of Americans became gun owners for the first time last year.
Just under 30 percent of gun sales were to new buyers in 2021, according to a National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) survey released on Tuesday. The industry trade group said that amounted to at least 5.4 million new owners. That means more than 13.8 million Americans have become gun owners since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These trends show that not only is there still a strong interest in gun ownership but also that these new gun owners are interested in learning more about the safe and responsible handling, use and storage of firearms,” Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO, said in a statement.
The wave of new gun owners, representing about 6.5 percent of American adults, could have a significant impact on gun politics in the United States for years to come. If a sizable percentage of those new gun owners become politically active on the issue, it could change the positions of either or both major political parties. Given the nationwide increase in sales, the impact may be felt at the local, state, and federal levels.
The numbers also reveal a relative slowdown in first-time gun buyers as a percentage of overall sales. In 2020, dealers reported 40 percent of customers were new gun owners. The 2021 share represents a ten percent drop in the share of buyers coming into a gun store for the first time. That mirrors the drop in overall sales from 2020 to 2021.
The survey, conducted among gun dealers in the NSSF network, reported more demographic shifts among new gun owners. 44 percent of dealers saw an increase in African-American customers. 40 percent saw a rise in Hispanic buyers. 27 percent reported an increase in Asian-American customers.
Additionally, dealers reported more than 33 percent of first-time buyers were women.
“We welcome these new gun owners to the greater community of law-abiding Americans who choose to own a firearm for lawful purposes, including self-defense, recreational target shooting and hunting,” Bartozzi said.
NSSF also found first-time buyers were interested in gun-safety training, with 47 percent asking dealers about training and 43 percent booking classes through them.
“The surveys revealed that new gun owners are continuing to embrace their Second Amendment rights and nearly half of them are seeking out professional training,” he said.
The survey also found nearly a quarter of new gun owners from 2020 bought another firearm in 2021.