Every time there is a shooting that attracts the national media, we see an uptick in firearm sales throughout the United States. The reasons are many including self-defense, fear of firearms being banned and maybe even just keeping up with the neighbors.
The percent of first-time buyers is increasing: between 32% and 40% nation-wide in the three years between the Sandy Hook massacre on December 14, 2012 and the San Bernadino terrorist attack on December 2, 2015.
Dean Weingarten reported in an article for Ammoland Shooting Sports News:
In another recent study, California data suggested that 59 percent of the increase in gun buyers after the Newtown (Sandy Hook) killings, the increase in buyers was mostly (59 percent) made up of new gun owners.
From the Wellesley study in Science:
Interestingly, although the NICS data do not provide any information about buyers, the California transaction records suggest that 59 percent of the additional purchases in response to Sandy Hook were made by first-time firearm buyers.
Please note that all firearm sales in California must go through a federally licensed firearms dealer AND the information about the purchaser reported to the state. A quick search reveals the people who are buying a firearm for the first time.
Dean also says:
The California data may not be representative of the United States as a whole. but [sic] the number of new gun owners found in the California data is another indication that gun ownership rates in the United States are increasing, not declining.
If you are a first-time buyer, several resources are available to help you:
The NRA Family has a good First-Time Handgun Buyers Guide.
The Christian Gun Owner also has a good help page: First Handgun Owner or Buyer.
Many local firearms groups, like the Golden State Second Amendment Council, offer first-time shooters sessions (sometimes even for free) so you can get some hands-on safety and shooting experience before purchasing your first firearm. At the very least you will be able to find someone who is willing to take you to the range and help you.
Despite having some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, California has new people joining the ranks of law-abiding and responsible firearms owners in increasing numbers.