US presidential election: the unprecedented jump in arms sales, a reflection of a country under pressure

In a climate of widespread anxiety and tension between supporters of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Americans have rushed to arms like never before. Sign of the climate of extreme tension, in New York as in Washington, businesses have barricaded themselves, fearing an explosion of violence at the announcement of the results. The Walmart supermarket chain has temporarily withdrawn from the sale of arms and ammunition.

While nearly 400 million firearms are already circulating in the country, a staggering arsenal that is by far the world record, their sales have seen an unprecedented jump in the months leading up to the US presidential election on November 3: almost 16 million of them were purchased from March to September, an increase of 91% compared to the same period of 2019. In Washington, the capital, the increase is … 400%.

“The year 2020 has been a long publicity to explain why someone might want to buy a weapon to defend themselves”, recently summed up Douglas Jefferson, an executive of the National African American Gun Association, to the New York Times. He is right: the Covid-19 pandemic which continues to rage, the protests organized after the death of African-American George Floyd to denounce police brutality and racism in general, as well as the riots and scenes of looting when gatherings have degenerated and maintain a deleterious climate. Without forgetting, in the White House, an outgoing president who does not hesitate to add fuel to the fire, when, for example, he refuses to explicitly denounce the white “supremacists” or that he warns that he is ready to challenge the results of the election on Tuesday, November 3.

“I said to myself that a weapon would reassure me”

For Elizabeth Lewis, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when she saw militias armed with assault rifles on TV trying to block the Michigan parliament in the spring. “I’m far from this state,” says this young woman from Boston, “but I was scared. I live alone and I told myself that a weapon would reassure me. I bought a Sig Sauer and, once a month, I go to practice shooting, we are a whole group of women ”.

In Boston, in fact, the NBC channel reported that Jewish retirees had created a group to train in the use of weapons. “Most of them didn’t like guns and were suspicious of them,” says Founder Eugene Buff, “but the need to protect themselves now prevails. “

Traditionally, it is white men who own guns in the United States, but this wave of purchases is fueled in large part this time by first-time guns, women, often lonely, members minorities and even left-wing Americans, according to The Trace, an association which studies the issue of firearms in the country.

The fear of a “civil war”

“Maybe I watch too much television,” said Ashley Johnson, a young black Texan interviewed recently in the New York Times, “but there are signs of a civil war depending on who wins the election.” So the other day she bought herself a Ruger SR22, a semi-automatic pistol.

Francesca Berna, a 48-year-old New Yorker, is also worried. “I don’t know anything about firearms, I’m not going to buy one,” says the mother of three. But our Chelsea apartment building has hired a security guard for the week after the election. And I must say that I hope he will be armed. “

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