In America, spikes in firearms purchases are often driven by fear. And now, the nation is on track in 2020 to stockpile at record rates, according to groups that track background checks from F.B.I. data, which showed sales rising earlier this year as virus fears spread.
But when it comes to gun ownership, there’s something uniquely American that cuts across party affiliation and social boundaries — leaving liberals and conservatives jostling for ammunition because they want to brace for whatever comes next.
“This is a giant room of ‘you never know,’” said Bert Davis, looking around earlier this month at people streaming inside a convention hall in Virginia to peruse weaponry at the Nation’s Gun Show, one of the biggest events of its kind.
A human resources worker for the city of Richmond, Va., Mr. Davis had come to the show with his sister Toni Jackson, who had been having difficulty finding 9-millimeter ammunition at local gun shops; they were all sold out.
“Everybody is arming themselves against their neighbor,” Ms. Jackson said, looking at the diverse lot of fellow shoppers, some pushing strollers and wheelchairs, one wearing a “Black Lives Matter” mask, one donning a “Keep America Great” mask and people standing in a line for background checks that snaked along the room. “This feeds the separatism of the country.”
“What’s going on in the country right now, I’m afraid to be out by myself as a Black woman,” Ms. Jackson said, describing unrest in her city of Richmond and beyond. “There are a lot of people not necessarily excited that Confederate monuments have been taken down.”
Other shoppers said they had bought a weapon because they were scared that calls to defund the police would be heeded. Some said they were scared of the police. Some were scared that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would become president. Others were scared of four more years of President Trump.
Don Woodson was overseeing the Trojan Arms and Tactical table of dozens of black, pink and Tiffany turquoise semiautomatic handguns. He estimated 70 percent of his sales at the show were to new gun owners, many of whom told him that they are afraid of rioters.
“People who never ever would have had guns before,” he said. “Now, they’re looking for security.”
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