CASPER, Wyo — Gun sales boomed in 2020 nationally and in Wyoming, according to data from the FBI, which ran 21 million background checks related to the sale of a firearm last year, a 60% increase over the year before.
That’s according to the COVID States Project’s recent report on gun purchase trends during the pandemic. The joint project by prominent universities including Harvard, Rutgers, and Northeastern has been examining public policy preferences across all 50 states during the pandemic.
The report’s authors note that NCIS checks are “useful indicator” of gun sales, though they aren’t an exact count, as some sales go through without background checks.
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The Wyoming Business Report found that 81,648 Wyoming residents applied for background checks through NICS in 2020, up about 25% from the two previous years.
According to COVID States Project report, 70% of buyers cited protection against crime as one of their reasons for purchasing a firearm.
47% cited target shooting or hunting. 32% said they were reacting to lockdowns, fears of the government, COVID-19, or the 2020 election.
Only 24% overall were first-time gun buyers.
The report also found that attendees of rallies and protests were more likely to have purchased a gun, and so were those who had been ill with COVID-19 at some point during the year.
Compared to those who did attend any kind of rally, demonstrators against racism or police violence were 1.6 times more likely to purchase guns, and those who attended Trump rallies and protests over lockdowns were 3.9 times more likely.
Sales spiked in March at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and again in June at the height of the nationwide protests spurred by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
“These protests reached massive proportions during the first week of June, the second-highest week ever for background checks at the time,” the report said.
“However, it is doubtful that protesters themselves—about 5% of the adult population by our estimates—can fully account for this increase.”
“One of our most surprising findings is that respondents who had been ill with COVID-19 at some point last year […] were also more likely to buy a gun,” the report said.
“However, this was only the case for households that already owned a gun. This result holds even when accounting for politics, public health behavior, and geography.”
The study surveyed 25,640 respondents in all 50 state and the District of Columbia.
The Wyoming Business Report said there were 682 jobs in firearm and sales and 213 supply jobs in the state, accounting for about $41.4 million in economic activity.
The chief revenue officer Garrett Wall of Cody-based Gunwerks told the journal that his business had seen a 30% increase, but restocking high-end items was likely to be an issue, as many specialty manufacturers, some of them located abroad, were facing material and supply chain issues.