There is a massive rise in gun sales in the United States despite seemingly gun-friendly control of Congress and the White House. This Black Friday, the FBI reported that it received more than 200,000 requests for background checks related to firearm’s sales, stating that this was the largest amount they had ever had. Was it due to a new advertising campaign? Special Black Friday pricing? Or is something else at play?
Attempting to nail down exactly how gun sales have fluctuated over the last year is a difficult task as headlines in the establishment media vary wildly.
CNBC states that the arms industry is going through a “Trump Slump,” suggesting that people are not buying guns anymore as a direct result of Trump’s pro 2nd Amendment sentiment. Meaning that without the constant threat of bans and regulation, the pre-ban buying frenzy has subsided.
Yet other sources (such as the FBI), show that very little has changed since 2016 which was the highest year on record. The oddity is that they are using the same numbers.
The NICS figures show only the people applying for background checks, and not the actual amount of firearms sold, nor the new owner data.
In 2015, 23 million background checks were applied for; this was the highest year on record. 2016 saw a massive increase to 27 million. Figures for 2017 have been up and down. Up until October (which is the last month figures are available thus far), over 20 million had been applied for, yet for the last seven years, applications in November and December have been higher than those in October. Meaning that if the trend continues, 2017 will be at the very least the clear second highest year in applications for background checks.
So what is prompting this? Have attitudes to guns really been harshening as the anti-gun lobby would have us believe? The evidence suggests otherwise. In reality, it seems that more people want to become gun owners than ever before.
Evidence suggests that there are two main reasons for this. The first: As the rise in high profile terror attacks (and mass-shootings) becomes more widely reported, people are concerned about being able to adequately protect themselves and their families.
Being unarmed in a situation where other people are heavily armed and seeking to cause death is a terrifying concept. How effective or useful the new owner may be is debatable, but it provides a sense of security nonetheless.
The second reason is that people see what is happening with legislation and regulation and this is forcing them to act. Despite the “gun-friendly” administration, there has been bipartisan support for more Federal control on who can be “given permission” (background check system) to own a firearm increases. Those who have thought about owning in the past (but never got around to it) are worried that if they don’t buy now, they may never get the chance.
It is the Constitutional threat that is driving the applications and the sales. With good reason, pro-gun legislation being pulled (SHARE Act), bipartisan support to ban some accessories (bump stocks, binary triggers) and SCOTUS refusing to hear an “assault weapon ban” case upheld by appellate court.
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.