by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Former mechanic Shawn Shriver bought a storefront about an hour outside Pittsburgh years ago. He created a 400-square-foot gun shop that he runs with his wife. They sell guns, ammo, and holsters to their neighbors. They normally carry about 150 pistols on a regular day. But there haven’t been many regular days since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, as well as the public unrest that emerged in June.
“I’ve got like three pistols in this store,” he said on Wednesday. “That’s it.”
A similar story has played out in many gun stores across the country in recent months. Shriver’s experience may be more relevant to understanding the electoral implications of the recent riot-inspired gun-sales spike because of where it’s happening: a small town at the southwest tip of a swing state that could play a key role in electing the next president of the United States.
“After COVID hit we sold out of ammo,” Shriver said. “And then they started with the protesting, and a lot more guns started going off the shelves.”
Pennsylvania is not the only bellwether state where this is happening.
A broader look at monthly sales data, as measured by FBI background checks, confirms swing state voters’ eagerness to arm themselves in 2020. The nine states at the epicenter of the presidential race between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden each saw historic seasonally adjusted gun sales in June—larger in all cases than the record-setting sales of March—a sign of surging demand for firearms in the wake of rioting and protests that have turned violent.
Many of those states saw substantial increases by comparison to historical means, too.