Americans, on edge, rush to arms before elections

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Jackson | From rural areas to large metropolises, an arms buying frenzy has gripped Americans, reflecting growing anxiety about the cumulative pandemic, high-profile violence and a hyper-tense political climate.

Noise reduction headphones screwed to her head, feet apart, Brenda Dumas points her brand new pistol at a cardboard target. “Fight,” the instructor shouts. Detonations ring out in the clearing of the Boondocks Firearms Academy, in the suburb of Jackson, in the southern United States.

“I want to be able to protect myself,” explains this white woman, who has just bought her first gun and convinced her husband to take a shooting course for their 36e wedding anniversary.

“I feel a little less safe because of all the violence we see on television,” with which “I philosophically disagree,” she told AFP.

Since the death of George Floyd, a black forty-something killed by a white policeman at the end of May, the United States has been crossed by a wave of anti-racist protest which has, at times, brought violence. President Donald Trump denounces chaos orchestrated by the far left and promises to restore “law and order” if he wins a second term on November 3.

“Demonstrating is a right, these people do not create chaos,” retorts an African-American enrolled in the same training as Dumas. “We have a president who instead of appeasing, is outbidding,” he regrets, on condition of anonymity.

In “this complicated period”, where far-right militias in places challenged the demonstrators, he too saw fit to complete his arsenal with a handgun, which he can carry on him, unlike his rifles.


2,000 kilometers away, in the New York metropolis, customers wait in front of the ever-full Coliseum Gun Traders armory.

“Firearms were not part of my lifestyle until recently,” explains Al Materazo, who came to stock up on ammunition. In February, however, he bought his first rifle because of the pandemic.

“I immediately thought that people were going to lose their jobs, that there would be less money and that burglaries might increase,” he explains. “I wanted to be able to protect my family”.

Since then, this white forty-something has bought a second weapon, this time driven by “the political climate and the riots”.

On this Long Island sidewalk, Edwin Tavares, 51, notes another worrying factor: the rise in crime in New York where homicides have increased by 40% in the first nine months of the year and shootings in 91%.

“With the calls to cut police funds and the denigration of agents”, heard in the Black Lives Matter protests, “it looks like it’s now up to us to fight crime”, regrets this man of Hispanic origin .

From 18 to 80 years old

Inside the store, owner Andrew Chernoff couldn’t get over seeing so many customers. “It’s been going on since February, it’s the longest trend I’ve seen in my entire career, it’s crazy! “

According to him, all profiles meet in his armory “from 18 to 80 years”, “from the garbage truck driver to the office worker”.

“Right now, there are so many new buyers that manufacturers are struggling to keep up,” adds Chad Winkler, manager of the Boondocks Academy. “There are shortages of arms and ammunition” all over the country, he notes.

As a result, prices are soaring. One of his clients explains that he paid $ 800 to buy a semi-automatic rifle which usually costs $ 499.

And in New York, where gun laws are stricter than in Mississippi, license applications are growing. “Usually, it takes six months, now we’re more like 14,” says John DeLoca, owner of the Seneca shooting range in Queens.


Federal police statistics on requests for criminal background checks, compulsory for gun purchases in stores, confirm this rush: on average 2.3 million per month in 2019, they rose to 3.9 million in June, a historic record.

“After the elections, things should calm down, people don’t have that much money,” said John DeLoca, however.

Chad Winkler recalls for his part that there is a peak before each ballot. According to him, gun owners, about 30% of adults in the United States, stockpile for fear of possible tougher laws.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who wants to ban assault rifles, is also causing concern among Alycia Brewer, who came with her husband to the Boondocks Academy to learn how to handle their brand new AR-15. “We want to keep the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment” of the Constitution, she adds, before lying down to train.

Whatever the motivations of buyers, one thing is certain: “Our sector is going to have a good year,” said Mr. Chernoff in his New York armory. “It’s awesome,” he adds. But if we look at it as a reflection of what is happening in the country, it’s actually sad ”.

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