Even as the United States is absorbed in a tough battle with the coronavirus outbreak, the country has witnessed record-breaking gun sales. The US is now the new epicentre of the global pandemic, accounting for 20 percent of the global cases.

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With the global COVID-19 infections racing towards the million-mark, the United States alone has reported more 212,000 confirmed cases and over 4,700 deaths due to the virus.

US registers highest number of gun sales in 20 years

In times of the global lockdown, while people are rushing towards stocking up on groceries and other essential items, US citizens are making a beeline outside the stores selling guns.

According to data released by the FBI, March registered a jump of 41% in background checks of those buying firearms in the country. In comparison to the same period last year, this time 3.7 million background checks for firearms were conducted by the agency. Out of the 3.7 million checks for firearms, 2.4 million accounted for guns only.

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It is the highest number of background checks for firearms conducted by the FBI in a single month since the launch of National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in 1998. llinois led the pack with more than half million background checks, closely followed by Texas, Kentucky, Florida and California.

CNN quoted Cara Herman, spokesperson for the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF): "We often see seasonal spikes in firearm sales, but, in addition, it is not uncommon to see increased gun sales based on political or social events and attitudes. Background checks and other regulatory safeguards are in place to ensure that only those eligible under federal law can obtain and possess firearms."

Gun-control advocates are worried over the rise of gun sales

The FBI stated that 1.2 m gun-background checks were conducted in the one-week period starting from March 16. It was the same week when the authorities had announced emergency-orders of stay-at-home to curb the spread of coronavirus.

According to The Guardian, since the beginning of the record-breaking week, long queues of people were seen outside the local gun stores, in California. On March 20, the agency conducted record-breaking 210,308, the highest number ever, firearms background checks in a single day.

In an email written to the publication, Oliva, the spokesman for the firearms industry trade group, said: "Retailers have been telling us that the overwhelming majority of those buying firearms over the last month have been first-time gun owners."

Raising concern over the surge in the sale of gun in the present scenario, the gun-control advocates in the country are urging people to refrain from panic buying of firearms. "We need to prepare for the increased risk of more firearms in untrained hands. If you didn't think you needed a gun prior to March of this year, you certainly don't need to rush out and get one now," David Chipman, a senior policy adviser at Giffords, a leading gun violence prevention expert, said in a statement to The Guardian.

Relating the current situation with the huge sales of gun, Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University and an expert on the gun industry, told The New York Times: "People are nervous that there's a certain amount of civil disorder that might come if huge numbers of people are sick and a huge number of institutions are not operating normally. They may have an anxiety about protecting themselves if the organs of state are starting to erode."