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As American Gun Sales Hit Record High, Tips for New Owners

Americans are buying guns at a record pace. A surprising number of the sales are from first-time firearm owners, says Stephen Gutowski, a reporter at The Washington Free Beacon and a certified National Rifle Association instructor.

Gutowski joins the podcast to explain some of the reasons for the spike in gun sales and to offer safety tips for first-time gun owners.

We also cover these stories:

  • President Donald Trump threatens to cut federal funding to four American cities that have allowed violence to spike. 
  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany says Trump did not tell voters to vote twice.
  • Trump criticizes New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his handling of New York nursing homes during the pandemic.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.

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Virginia Allen: I am pleased to be joined by Stephen Gutowski, a reporter at The Washington Free Beacon and a certified National Rifle Association instructor. Stephen, thanks so much for being here.

Stephen Gutowski: Hey, thanks for having me.

Allen: Last week, you wrote a great piece for the Free Beacon discussing 2020 gun sales in America. About 5 million Americans have become gun owners for the very first time in 2020. Are those numbers normal?

Gutowski: No, those are pretty abnormal numbers. In fact, it’s a record pace at this point for gun sales in the United States and from what we know, at least from what the industry says from surveys that they’ve conducted, 40% of new sales are going to first-time gun owners, which is how you get that 5 million number.

That is very unusual and … the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry group, … in addition to what they’re saying, I’ve also spoken to a number of gun stores and a number of new buyers and it’s certainly something that’s completely out of the ordinary.

Allen: Wow. What are the manufacturers saying? What are those that work at gun shops and sell guns [saying]? Are they pretty surprised by what’s going on?

Gutowski: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, obviously, we’re living in fairly unprecedented times generally with the virus and some of the civil unrest that we’ve seen and so guns and gun sales are also a part of that and driven in large part by those events. …

One store that I’ve talked to several times is Wex Gunworks down in Florida in Delray Beach and he said it’s been unlike anything he’s ever seen before. I think his quote was, “They said that President [Barack] Obama was the greatest gun salesman of all time. No, it’s actually COVID-19.” And I think you see that reflected as well in big gun companies, too.

Sturm, Ruger [& Co.] is one of the largest gun companies in the world. It’s one of the only publicly traded gun manufacturers in the U.S. and they reported their sales were simply through the roof. Their CEO said that in his 30 years in the business, he’d never seen anything like it.

Allen: Wow, so in 30 years of being in gun sales, he’s saying, “This is nothing like I’ve ever seen,” as far as the rate and the amount of sales?

Gutowski: That’s right, absolutely, and their stocks reflect that as well. The stocks for Sturm, Ruger as well as Smith & Wesson, which is the other publicly traded gun company, have absolutely gone through the roof over the past six months or so, which is reflective of that.

They also don’t expect it to slow down anytime soon. It’s something that is likely to continue throughout the pandemic, but also perhaps even increase in the later part of this year, because the other thing that tends to drive gun sales historically have been elections, especially elections where one of the candidates is proposing significant new gun control legislation, which is certainly the case here in 2020.

Allen: Yeah. You mentioned that … that has been a trend that we’ve seen in election years, that gun sales go up, but what is different about this year that all of these records are being set and people that have worked in gun sales for so long are saying, “I’ve never seen something like this”?

Gutowski: Yeah, I think one thing that is really different, it is really those … new gun owners, right?

Because a lot of election-based gun sales, which we really haven’t even gotten into yet I don’t think here in 2020, but that was the big driver in 2016 when there were record gun sales and in 2013 after Sandy Hook where there was actually a lot of focus on the potential for new federal gun control laws, you saw a big spike in sales in those time periods as well.

But those were oftentimes driven by people who already owned guns wanting to buy firearms that they believed might be made illegal by politicians.

Whereas this time around, from everything we’re seeing—and this is also reflected in dealer surveys by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, but also from my own interviews with gun dealers and with first-time buyers—but really, they’re motivated by the concern for self-defense, with concern for home defense, being worried about essentially the uncertainty that

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