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Today’s gun buyer isn’t the stereotype critics suggest | COMMENTARY

Devrin Bowling of Owings Mills, with his two-year old daughter, Emory, looks at the display of pistols at Maryland Elite Firearms. Dan Hartman, owner of the gun shop, reports that gun sales have been up since last February-March, coinciding with COVID, Black Lives Matter protests, and the upcoming election. Oct. 27, 2020.
Devrin Bowling of Owings Mills, with his two-year old daughter, Emory, looks at the display of pistols at Maryland Elite Firearms. Dan Hartman, owner of the gun shop, reports that gun sales have been up since last February-March, coinciding with COVID, Black Lives Matter protests, and the upcoming election. Oct. 27, 2020. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

There has been recent gnashing of teeth that firearm sales across the nation are shattering records. That is true in Maryland too. Those favoring gun control are wondering what is driving Americans in record numbers to purchase a firearm in 2020.

There are some who can’t understand why anyone, much less a Marylander, would choose to exercise their right to keep and bear arms. Even in this deep blue Democratic state, where Joe Biden beat Donald Trump, by more than 30%, gun sales have soared.

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Maryland authorities conducted 273,278 background checks for the purchase of a firearm so far this year. That dwarfs the 148,813 checks last year. It is also in line with the national trend.

It’s important to put this into perspective. In Maryland, more than a quarter million of our neighbors legally purchased a firearm. They filled out the background check forms and completed the required safety course. They acquired the necessary permits, submitting their information to the state authorities and the FBI to verify they are law-abiding citizens who can be trusted to exercise their rights.

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The firearm industry surveyed gun retailers this year to find out just who is buying these guns and why.

Astonishingly, 40% of those buying guns today are buying one for the first time in their lives. Before 2020, these individuals never owned a gun. Across the nation, that equates to nearly 7.7 million people. Here in Maryland that’s over 109,000 of us.

Today’s gun buyer isn’t the stereotype critics would have Marylanders envision. Of those people buying guns in 2020, 40% are women. The largest demographic increase is among African Americans, who are purchasing guns at a rate 58% higher this year than in 2019.

Why are gun sales so popular this year? The survey that identified just who is buying guns this year also asked that question. Overwhelmingly, the answer came down to a single word — safety. Marylanders, like the rest of America, took responsibility for providing for the safety of their family and themselves. This year gave them plenty of reasons to make that decision.

In March, firearm sales spiked to their highest month on record. More than 2.3 million background checks were conducted for a gun sale then, which was also the same month COVID pandemic measures set in. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a State of Emergency and “Stay at Home” Executive Order that same month. Police were triaging 911 calls to reduce exposure to infection, and some officers were pulled from duty because they’d tested positive. In May, our nation witnessed the horrific death of George Floyd. The protests that arose morphed into rioting and looting. Rioters burned and vandalized property, including a police union hall in Baltimore. Some elected officials openly called for defunding police departments and several actually did so, literally taking the tools of community safety away from the people who needed them the most.

Today’s gun buyer understands the serious responsibility as they lawfully take ownership of their firearms and exercise their right to keep and bear arms and provide self-defense. As a state and nation, we celebrate Americans exercising our God-given rights. We cherish our First Amendment freedoms. We hold free speech and our right to protest as sacrosanct. Our religious liberties to worship our Creator in a manner of our choosing is vital. The same holds true for our Second Amendment rights.

Denigrating our Second Amendment rights to a second-class right denigrates the value of our freedoms we hold high as Americans.

Those opposed to firearms want citizens to believe that owning a gun is scary and dangerous for the gun owner and their family. The truth is that in the more than 100 years that data has been collected, accidental deaths from firearms have decreased 95%. In 2018 (the most recent available year), there were 458 fatal firearms-related accidents in our country, the lowest since at least 1903.

Critics of Americans taking ownership of their Second Amendment rights use fearmongering and half-truths. They paint gun owners as would-be abusers or suicidal, as murders in waiting. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a diverse citizenry purchasing firearms today, and they’re doing so to provide for their family’s safety. It is their constitutional right to do so.

Maryland deserves better than voices with loudspeakers vilifying our neighbors and sowing distrust in our communities. When more women, more African Americans and more Marylanders are empowered to make their own decisions in the name of safety, all of Maryland is safer.

Delegate Kathy Szeliga, a Republican, is the Maryland House Minority Whip and represents Baltimore and Harford counties. Her email is kathy.szeliga@house.state.md.us.

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