Gun sales spiked in the region around Ferguson, Missouri, this week, as police face off with protesters in what until Thursday night was an around-the-clock stand-off many analogized to a war zone.
At Metro Shooting Supplies’ Bridgeton location 9 miles from Ferguson, gun sales were 8 to 10 times higher than at the store’s other locations, owner Steve King told the Huffington Post. “To put it in perspective, the sales we’re seeing now are like what we see around Christmas time,” he said. Another owner of a gun store in Ellisville, Missouri, said guns were selling at double the usual rate this week. “Because of the rioting, everyone’s nervous up here now,” said owner Steve Walsh.
Gun sales have historically spiked in a number of circumstances that escalate fear, including after warnings from the National Rifle Association that politicians would take citizens’ guns away through regulation. Gun sales also typically rise after mass shootings, a phenomenon that is typically attributed both to self-defense concerns and similar fears that gun regulation will follow.
The spike in gun purchases by civilians could be another adverse consequence of police militarization. Several states have proposed amending self-defense laws to authorize shootings of the police, and Indiana passed one.
But studies show guns are far more likely to escalate a conflict then abate it. One 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that the “odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he was carrying a gun.” The victim is also 4.2 times more likely to be killed.