Pandemics, Protests and Firearms

26 Pages Posted: 11 May 2020 Last revised: 13 Jul 2020

See all articles by Bree J. Lang

Bree J. Lang

University of California, Riverside (UCR)

Matthew Lang

University of California, Riverside (UCR) - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 12, 2020

Abstract

A record number of firearm background checks were completed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and during the protests following the murder of George Floyd. Using monthly state-level data, we show that the increase in firearm background check rates in March, 2020 and June, 2020 differ from previous gun-buying events in at least two important ways. First, the increases in the background check rates surrounding COVID-19 and the George Floyd protests are significantly larger than previous gun-buying events. Second, the gun-buying events of 2020 are non-partisan; the effect in Republican-leaning states is statistically indistinguishable from the effect in Democrat-leaning states. We provide evidence that the recent spikes in background checks are not motivated by gun policy uncertainty and a significant fraction of background checks represent first-time gun buyers. We also discuss policy recommendations that may alleviate any negative outcomes associated with expanded gun ownership during an unprecedented pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19, firearm background checks, gun policy

JEL Classification: H75, I18

Suggested Citation

Lang, Bree J. and Lang, Matthew, Pandemics, Protests and Firearms (July 12, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3593956 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3593956

Bree J. Lang

University of California, Riverside (UCR) ( email )

900 University Avenue
Riverside, CA 92521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/breejoneslang/

Matthew Lang (Contact Author)

University of California, Riverside (UCR) - Department of Economics ( email )

900 University Avenue
4136 Sproul Hall
Riverside, CA 92521
United States

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