Detail from the cover of Carlson's new book
With a pandemic, nationwide protests, record-breaking weather events and political upheaval, it’s no wonder the past 12 months saw record gun sales across the nation. In 2020, the FBI conducted nearly 40 million background checks for gun purchases, an increase of 40% from 2019.
In the same year, Jennifer Carlson, a University of Arizona associate professor of sociology, earned a National Science Foundation grant to document the surge in American gun purchases. This resulted in her latest book, "Policing the Second Amendment: Guns, Law Enforcement and the Politics of Race
Ahead of a weekly webinar series with gun experts
, UA highlighted some of Carlson’s research and work.
“Gun sellers' reports about why people were buying guns related to uncertainty. The fact that people were going to the grocery store and there was no toilet paper, that places were shut down, people were getting laid off – there is this sense of uncertainty and chaos,” Carlson told the university. “The striking aspect of 2020, though, is that this becomes a moment when guns become appealing to a much broader sector of the population who either thought about getting a gun but never took that step, or were adamantly opposed to guns and gun ownership.”
Carlson spoke with gun sellers who reported seeing more gun purchases from first-time gun owners, including women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.
“With this shift to first-time gun buyers, I think the question is: Does owning a gun make you part of gun culture?” Carlson said. “You may buy a gun in the context of acute insecurity when you find that for the first time in your life you can't go to the store and buy toilet paper, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you've invested in the broader political project that's represented by pro-gun politics. So I think that's a question that's still waiting to be unraveled."
The next webinar takes place at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 23, and will cover gun culture and gun violence during coronavirus. The final webinar will be 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 30, and will cover guns and democracy.