Last weekend, on our flight down to Charleston, I sat behind a trim middle-aged guy on the airplane. At some point on the flight I noticed, through the gap between two of the seats in the row ahead, that he was reading a magazine about weapons.
The magazine was filled with glossy, high-quality pictures of rifles, pistols, shotguns, knives, various kinds of of bullets, and camouflage-wearing guys displaying or shooting their guns. The articles described the features and performance characteristics of the new weapons on the market, but what really made an impression on me was the many close-up, detailed photographs of the gleaming weapons themselves. If there is such a thing as “gun porn” for the guns ‘n ammo enthusiast, this guy’s magazine offered it.
The guy on the airplane is not alone in his interests in firearms and other weapons. 2020 was an all-time record year for gun sales in the U.S., with Americans buying 22.8 million guns–64.8 percent more than in 2019. Experts attribute the surge in gun sales to the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about social unrest, and fears by gun owners that the presidential election would bring new restrictions on gun and ammunition ownership. And while 2021 hasn’t maintained that same record pace, it’s still on track to be one of the biggest gun sale years in history. In August of this year, for example, Americans bought another 1.4 million guns. Surveys indicate that about 40 percent of Americans live in households that own a gun–that number is down, incidentally, from 1978, when 51 percent of households reported owning guns–and it is estimated that there are somewhere around 400 million firearms in private households in America.
That’s a heck of a lot of guns. But given the way the guy in the seat in front of me was checking out his magazine, it seems like the appetite for still more gun sales is still strong.