Pandemic fears driving firearm purchases

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Stress related to the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty about the future are motivating people to buy firearms, a trend that may be more common among those who already own firearms, according to a Rutgers study.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, found that people who intend to purchase a firearm in the next 12 months are less unsafe, have exaggerated threat expectations, and have more serious COVID-19-specific fears. They were also more likely to have had suicidal thoughts, worked in law enforcement, and been viewed as essential workers during COVID-19.

“Basic workers are at the forefront of the pandemic and many are already facing systemic inequalities that leave them to suffer chronic stress. The pandemic can make this worse and lead them to consider options like firearms in the hopes of develop a sense of security, “said lead author Michael Anestis, executive director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers and associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

“Law enforcement officers already have high levels of guns and may have concerns about their place in society on top of COVID stress as the racial justice movement has transformed public opinion about the police,” he said. “The thought of buying a gun in the coming year could make you feel normal.”

The researchers tracked the purchase intentions of 3,500 Americans over the next 12 months: 2,364 who said not to buy a gun, 516 who planned to buy, and 596 who were undecided.

The researchers found that 26.4 percent of those who wanted to buy a firearm in the next 12 months had already bought a firearm in 2020, compared to 3.6 percent of those who hadn’t decided to buy, and 1 , 7 percent of those who didn’t want to buy a gun. Those planning to purchase firearms reported having more handguns, shotguns and rifles than any other group.

These results suggest a group of people stockpiling firearms during a particularly chaotic time in the nation. Although those who wanted to buy firearms were more fearful than others, they did not claim to live in more dangerous areas.

“The urge to buy firearms during the 2020 purchase surge seems to stem from a feeling that times are stressful and the world is unsafe,” Anestis said. “Acquiring a firearm may bring some people a sense of control and security, which would explain the need to continually purchase more during stressful moments. This fear does not seem to be driven by actual threats in their environment The problem here, however, is not that their lives are marked by an increase in violence, but that their fears drive their perception of the world to come. “

The increase in gun purchases in 2020 does not guarantee a subsequent epidemic of suicidal deaths, but it does increase the risk. The results are an important step in understanding the dynamics underlying trends in buying behavior.

People who bought firearms during a pandemic are more likely to be suicidal

More information:
Michael D. Anestis et al., Threat Perception and the Intention to Acquire Firearms, Journal of Psychiatric Research (2020). DOI: 10.1016 / j.jpsychires.2020.12.033 Provided by Rutgers University

Quote: Pandemic fears firearms purchase (2020, December 16), accessed on December 16, 2020 from

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