Gun sales in the United States soared in 2020, and those purchases correlated with participation in pro-Donald Trump rallies or protests against racism and police violence, according to a new study by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard, Northwestern, and Rutgers.

The online survey of 10,000 people, conducted nationally from mid-December to mid-January, asked participants whether they or someone in their household had bought a gun in 2020. In all, 23 percent of survey respondents who attended a Trump rally, a protest against pandemic lockdowns, or a protest against the presidential election outcome purchased a firearm.

“There’s a striking pattern,” says David Lazer, university distinguished professor of political science and computer and information sciences at Northeastern, and one of the researchers who conducted the study.

Echoing the results of other gun studies, the survey found Republicans were more likely than Democrats to have bought a gun. The survey also found that people who already owned a firearm were more likely to purchase a gun than were first-time buyers.

“Whether these were individuals who were in some sense both predisposed to already buying guns for various reasons, versus the participation in these events spurred them to purchase guns, we can’t really know based on the data,” Lazer says.


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