By: Peter Suciu
A long held – and misguided – perception of gun owners is that they are mostly older white males and that they live in primarily rural areas and are more likely to be blue collar. Clearly, such beliefs don’t take into account the record prices paid for historic firearms or that gun sales have been on the rise in places such as Beverly Hills.
Just as the country’s demographics have continued to evolve, gun owners are increasingly far more diverse.
A study led by Matthew Miller of Northeastern University found that Americans who bought firearms for the first time between January 2019 and April 2021 – when gun sales hit record levels – weren’t just older white males. Miller and his co-authors found that half of the first-time gun buyers were female, a fifth black and a fifth Hispanic. In fact, some 5.3% of the sales were to black Americans – more than twice that of white Americans.
Even as today’s gun-owners are still largely white (73 percent) and male (63 percent), the study found that gun owners are quickly diversifying.
The findings from Northeastern University are similar to the new data released this month from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearm industry trade association, which found that there were 5.4 million first-time buyers of firearms last year. Those numbers can’t be understated, as it represented nearly 30 percent of all of 2021’s gun purchases. The NSSF, which based its findings on retailer surveys and adjusted data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), found that the number of new buyers only saw a 10 percent decrease from the 40 percent of first-time gun buyers revealed in the NSSF’s 2020 findings.
More than 21 million background checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm, with over 8.4 million of those estimated to be for those buying a firearm for the first time.
“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,” said Joe Bartozzi, president and CEO of NSSF.
“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,” added Bartozzi. “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.”
Based on past NSSF retailer survey, it seems that gun buyers are far more diverse than ever.
Last year saw a 58 percent year-over-year increase of African-Americans who purchased a firearm, while there was also a 49 percent increase of Hispanic-Americans during the same time period and a 43 percent increase of Asian-Americans buying firearms compared to the year prior. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of retailers told the NSSF that the increase of these demographic groups of first-time buyers purchasing firearms remain unchanged from 2020 to 2021.
NSSF’s 2021 survey of retailers noted several other key findings:
*Nearly 47 percent of first-time gun buyers in 2021 inquired about training and 43 percent signed up for training.
*Nearly 23 percent of retailers indicated that first-time gun buyers in 2020 purchased another firearm in 2021.
*Over 33 percent of first-time gun buyers in 2021 were women.
*44 percent of retailers saw an increase of African-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021.
*Nearly 40 percent of retailers saw an increase of Hispanic-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021.
*Over 27 percent of retailers saw an increase of Asian-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021.
*Over 18 percent of retailers saw an increase of Native-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021.
*Nearly 14 percent of retailers saw an increase of Native-Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders purchasing firearms in 2021.
The increase in gun sales among different demographic groups also comes as support for gun control has fallen to the lowest level in nearly a decade according to several national polls.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.