Black Americans flock to gun stores and clubs: 'I needed to protect myself'

Janice Matthews always knew she would be a gun owner someday. She was raised in Alabama where her family members rarely left their home unarmed. Still, after more than three decades in California she wasn’t in a rush to start shopping around at gun stores. Then the pandemic hit.

Matthews started hearing rumors of food shortages and noticed store shelves emptied by shoppers panic-buying everything from bullets to toilet paper. After her daughter moved out of their home, she was left with an empty nest and a lot of anxiety.

“I was thinking of what they predicted in the Bible and I thought I would have to protect the little bit that I had,” Matthews, 55, recalled.
So one day in the spring of last year, she waited six hours in line outside a northern California gun shop to become one of the millions of Americans who became first-time gun owners in 2020.

Americans bought a record number of firearms last year. An estimated 5 million people bought their first ever gun between March and August, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a trade organization, and that number continued to climb throughout the year. Black Americans saw the highest increase in new gun owners of any demographic, the NSSF found, with gun ownership in the group up by a staggering 58.2%.

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