Concerns over a chaotic election and the specter of political violence have only further fueled gun sales, with people on the left and the right worried about the months to come.
"We've created a powder keg of people who are afraid for different reasons," Dowd-Arrow said. "When people feel that they can become victimized, they want to protect themselves."
The FBI performed 28.8 million background checks on people seeking to buy firearms and accessories in the first nine months of 2020 — more than the annual total for any previous year. The total for all of last year was 28.3 million.
Early in the pandemic, factory shutdowns interrupted supply chains for gun makers, but manufacturing quickly resumed to pre-pandemic levels, said Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms and ammunition industries.
Now, he said, "this is an issue of overwhelming demand."
His organization recently surveyed firearm retailers and found that an estimated 40% of customers nationally this year were first-time gun buyers, up from an average of 24% in recent years.
Black Americans bought guns at a rate 58% higher than in previous years — the largest increase for any demographic group.
At Los Ranchos Gun Shop in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, a community of farmland and stately adobe homes set along the Rio Grande, it's become common for people to walk in and say, "I've never owned a gun before," said store owner Mark Abramson.
Most new clients say they want a gun for self-defense. Abramson said his store has seen an increase in women and people of color. Some Asian Americans have told him they were afraid of being targeted in racially motivated attacks after President Donald Trump repeatedly blamed China for spreading the coronavirus to the rest of the world.
Abramson, who considers himself a liberal, said he sees more gun sales as a natural consequence of heightened political tensions, which he believes have been exacerbated by the news media. He and his employees have talked about the need to defend their store from looting should violence break out after the election.