Andreyah Garland, a 44-year-old single mother of three daughters, bought a shotgun in May for protection in the quaint middle-class town of Fishkill, New York. She joined a new and fast-growing local gun club to learn how to shoot.

She has since applied for a pistol permit and constantly hunts for increasingly scarce ammunition — making three trips weekly to a local Walmart. “They’re always out,” she said.

Like legions of other first-time buyers who are contributing to record sales for the U.S. gun industry this year, Garland’s decision to take up arms is driven in part by disturbing news about the coronavirus pandemic, social unrest over police killings of Black people and a potentially contested election that many fear could spark violence.

“With everything going on around us,” she said, “you see a need.”

Surges in U.S. firearm sales have in recent decades been predictably driven by events sparking fears of impending gun-control legislation, such as the election of a Democratic president or a spate of mass shootings, federal gun background check data show. Industry experts and academics who study gun ownership say such surges came largely among the gun-industry’s core base of white, male and politically conservative customers who often already owned one or multiple guns.

The gun market is widening this year to include a new rush of first-time buyers, including many women, minorities and politically liberal buyers.

That market is widening this year to include a
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