US virus coronavirus gun sales
David Liu, right, owner of a gun store, takes an order from a customer in Arcadia, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
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By Larry Keane

By just about anyone’s account, 2020 has been a year unlike any other. That’s true for the Second Amendment, the firearm industry and for millions of Americans new to gun ownership. It doesn’t look like that will change any time soon.

The Heritage Foundation hosted a webinar titled, “The Second Amendment Strikes Back,” spotlighting several intersecting trends related to gun rights. Moderated by Heritage legal fellow Amy Swearer, the conversation included in-depth insights from Second Amendment journalist Stephen Gutowski, California firearm retailer and National African American Gun Association member Geneva Solomon and Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Jacob Huebert.

Topics included this year’s record-breaking surge in firearm sales, on-the-ground gun store experiences, the growing diversity among gun owners and the legal implications on the Second Amendment from lawsuits on the local, state and federal levels.

Nearly 6.2 Million

The backdrop for firearm sales in 2020 is well known. The coronavirus pandemic and shutdown orders from governors created worry and concern for Americans. Law enforcement were stretched thin and jails and prisons were releasing criminals. Then riots, looting and violence in communities exploded and calls to “defund the police” grew. Gun sales continued to surge.

The numbers are historic. More than 15.4 million checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) have been run so far. Retailer survey data approximates almost 6.2 million first-time gun owners.

Solomon provided her view as an on-the-ground firearm retailer in the Golden State.

People wait in a line to enter a gun store in Culver City, Calif., Sunday, March 15, 2020. Coronavirus concerns have led to consumer panic buying of grocery staples and now gun stores are seeing a similar run on weapons and ammunition as panic intensifies. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

“With California being one of the most restrictive states out there, we saw an uptick that started in mid-March in gun sales when the shutdown in California happened,” she began. “Literally, we blinked and we had a line of new gun owners who knew nothing about what the process looked like.”

Gutowski added the intersecting circumstances set the table for where we are now, explaining “It’s a pretty huge sea change and one that is certain to have long-term impact on the country.”

Legal Roadblocks

Swearer described how 2020 began with inaction from the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In some respects, 2020 has been a disappointing year for the Second Amendment,” she said. “As many of us remember with some chagrin, the Supreme Court continued its decade-long silence earlier this year on this most important constitutional right.”

The Supreme Court denied petitions of appeal to hear any of 10 cases involving Second Amendment issues before them.

At a more local level, lawsuits have been brought challenging governors’ executive overreach to shut down gun stores in states like New Jersey and New Mexico. Other lawsuits were brought by gun buyers facing roadblocks to purchase their firearm, as in Philadelphia.

Gutowski recalled reporting on a California gun buyer, Scott Kane, who relayed the barriers he experienced.

gun store sales
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

“This has taken me, a law-abiding citizen with nary an unpaid parking ticket to my name, over a month. Meanwhile Joe Bad Guy has probably purchased several fully automatic AK-47s out of the back of an El Camino in a shady part of town with zero background checks,” Kane explained.

Illinois residents seeking their Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card have had it especially hard. Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Jacob Huebert cut right to the chase, describing the severe delays experienced in Chicago.

“Of course, Illinois and especially Chicago are notorious for disrespecting Second Amendment rights,” Huebert explained. “So, it’s [Chicago’s antigun history] been incredibly hostile to Second Amendment rights, and now it seems that the big one that’s left is this FOID card requirement.” 

Gun Politics, Local Politics

All four speakers noted the importance of national politics and the implications of November’s election on the right to keep and bear arms. They wrapped up the conversation by focusing attentions on the local level.

Solomon reiterated that it was new gun buyers coming to her store and learning the process as the moment when they would recognize how gun control laws affect them.

gun store counter
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

“A lot of times what happens especially for the new gun owners is, yes, we pay attention to the presidential election, but then they forget about midterms and local elections… and a lot of times that’s how these things get packaged and passed because people are not paying attention at that level,” she said.

Gutowski added that even in antigun states like New York and California, new gun owners who are engaged and contact their local officials can still have a significant impact. He noted Virginia this year, where the Democratic-controlled state legislature passed several gun control laws. It was significant grassroots engagement and pressure that caused elected officials to reject the most severe policy, a ban and confiscation on modern sporting rifles.

“It’s clear that even when one party has control of the entire state government, they can still be influenced on specific issues if you have enough voters who speak up about it,” he said.

NSSF launched the #GUNVOTE campaign to help voters become more educated and don’t risk their rights in the ballot box on Nov. 3.




Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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  1. I’m withholding any cheering until I hear of a grant of certiorari in a case before the SCOTUS. I’m tired of hopes being dashed.

    Vote, dammit. Drag the friends you have along with you. Bribe ’em with pizza and hard alcohol if you have to.

    (Just don’t get caught! 😉 )

  2. At this point in the game those swords in the back of that top picture may be the only lethal weapons left in a lot of gun shops. And you don’t have to buy non existent bullets for them.

    • True–they never run out of ammo unless you break them. On the other hand, they have a very short range, hardly more than a couple of years….

    • I was in a fun shop on Tuesday and they were very well stocked. 9×19 is still hard to come by, and the guns are flying off the shelves, but they have managed to keep up pretty well. The local Cabelas is barren though except for some revolvers, fudd guns, and a few odd autos.

    • I make no predictions and have no sense of ease or comfort in how this election may turn out.

      Biden appears more likely to win than Trump. This will be a good and bad thing regardless of what side you are on or what you are willing to admit about the condition of our Republic.

      Amy Coney Barrett is more likely to be confirmed than to be declined. There have been only three nominees rejected by the Senate in what we may think of as “recent times”. Two of Nixons and one of Reagans. Well, maybe four if you scoot back a little more and add one from LBJ. The situation for Barrett isn’t similar to any of those rejections where actual confirmation was attempted.

      So odds are good that whatever anti-gun laws will come from Trump in a second term (no, he i snot our friend) or Biden if he wins both the House and Senate, they will be shit-canned by the Supreme Court in a highly decisive manner.

      • Biden appears more likely to win than Trump.

        I’ve been looking for some of that good stuff, who’s your dealer? cause whatever you’re smoking must be some really good shit, I did try a shroom/Maui blend once, tasted like shit but the results were pretty close to what you seem to be experiencing…

        • These never Trumpers are pathetic…… famous last words Hillary by a landslide……

          Miami, FL. Latinos for Biden car parade had 15 yes that is 15 cars. A Latinos for Trump had, according to the Police, 30,000 cars. Plus Boats in the water. They will try to cheat.

          56+ % of people who say they are voting Biden know friends who are voting Trump and think he will win.

          ACB the next Justice has confirmed, 2A is an individual right as is says. 14th says states can allow or deny voting rights to criminals. No Amendment says that about the 2A.

  3. How did 2A “strike back”? Any new gun owner’s voting R? I dunno. Mebbe if they can actually buy AMMO. Will ACB “turn the tide”? Beats me…I did notice generally positive news about 2A on ABC 7 Chiraq today. About the corrupt FOID and CCL “problems” in ILLinois. Even leftard’s notice folks are afraid of civil unrest,crime & murder. Duh😕😕😕😕

  4. 2020 The 2nd Amendment Strikes Back

    I’m alright with that. I just hope next year doesn’t go all Stephen King on us. Like, 2021 The Stand or something.

    • “Like, 2021 The Stand or something.”

      If TTAG characters starred in ‘The Stand’, the Possum and his burrow-built Neutron bomb would be ‘Trashcan Man’, and Vegas would be sterilized… 🙂

  5. A “Strike Back” for the Second amendment will require not less than 1 Supreme Court ruling and more likely several.

    Short of that, it’s just editorial salesmanship drawing clicks to a title like “The Year the Second Amendment Strikes Back”.

  6. The 2nd Amendment holds No Magic Power in and of itself. The Power of the 2nd Amendment resides in a Citizenry that refuses to allow it to be whittled away or destroyed by Politician or Judge. It is imperative that the Two remain as One. Each to be used to protect the other, for they cannot survive apart. Regardless of who is President or Supreme Court Justice. Keep Your Powder Dry

    • I would love to see the actual plan of the “seizures” More than 500,000,000 guns now out there in “our” hands. The horse is outta the barn. You can make black powder if it comes to that end.

      Those morons always say how are we gonna stop the Air Force jets, or destroy a tank? Don’t have to. Small bands can disrupt supply lines. How many officers who decide to pass along an order from political hack generals will do so? How many will get “fragged” I doubt I can just hop in a jet and fly it. I can drive a Tank. From Army days with 113’s and FIST tracked vehicles, Arty. Have driven M1. Can’t drive, load and shoot with 1 guy. How many “defections” rate of mutineers? Take society there can be a tiny % who would be willing to obey unlawful orders. The majority will never.

      These idiots are trying to erase history, when you should remember. Ernst Röhm had almost a million “Brown Shirts” found Adolf. Helped him take power then was “Epsteined” with Goebbels offering him the pill or the bullet. They as Ernst are useful idiots, then they are worm food. Watch the video of Saddam sitting over his parliament being accused, he said nothing just smoking a cigar as his secret police walked the members out never to be seen again. The power they want brings a lust for blood. Those who helped. Help a dictator, he orders you dead, rinse, repeat.

    • Ah, but we’ve been asleep on guard duty of our Freedoms, Liberties, and Rights to the point that it is no longer “enemy in the wire”. Too late to sound the alarm. Today, and for decades, the enemy sits in the Command Post. America has been over run. All that is left, especially should Biden win November 3……or whenever Dems find enough “lost/uncounted” mail-in ballots to win……. is to call BROKEN ARROW……BROKEN ARROW……BROKEN ARROW!!!!! EXPEND ALL AVAILABLE ORDINANCE ON OUR POSITION!!!! And, that, boys and girls, is what the Second Amendment is all about, and why the Dems/Libs/Socialists are so impassioned about eliminating it and Americans’ ability to resist their agendas. Class dismissed. Go home and make ready. You’ve been warned.

  7. “Other lawsuits were brought by gun buyers facing roadblocks to purchase their firearm, as in Philadelphia.”

    That was over the city not issuing or renewing License To Carry Firearms. Many other counties and municipalities were in violation along with them. It had nothing to do with purchasing a firearm. Pennsylvania does not have a purchase permit. Walk into an FFL, buy your gun, fill out your 4473 and the state form if it’s a handgun, wait for your PICS check (State police background check that includes a NICS check), and walk out with your gun. You just can’t carry it around without an LTCF.

    • I should add that PA LTCFs expiring March 19 or later were all extended. Initially they extended them to July 31, and then they extended the extension to December 31. So if you had an LTCF expiring on or after 3/19/20 it is good until the end of the year.

      AFAIK all counties and Philadelphia are now open for some form of LTCF application/renewal.

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