July 24, 2017 — It depends upon which headline you see. One says, “FBI Firearm Background Checks Down Sharply.” The other says, “Second-Largest Number of Background Checks Ever for Guns.”
Both are—depending on your definition of “sharply”—factually correct. For the first half of 2017, background checks using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System were down by about 9% from the first half of 2016. But 2016 was the biggest year on record, and 2017 beats every other year since the NICS was implemented in 1998.
Many news outlets and pundits are trying to happily convince us that this spells doom and gloom for the firearms industry. And, while the NICS isn’t an exact measure of gun sales in America, it is a decent barometer of buying and 9% is not insignificant.
The message, though, is a bit muddled. Other than gleefully predicting the demise of the firearms industry, what are the doomers and gloomers trying to tell us? Are they expecting that gun companies will simply fold up shop? That, since Americans aren’t buying quite as many guns, soon no one will have guns? That the 9% drop somehow validates the claims of gun control advocates or demonstrates that America’s love for the Second Amendment is coming to an end?
Honestly, the fact that 2016 was a record year says a lot already. When the outcome of the election was in doubt, gun buyers were flocking to the gun shops ahead of an expected Hillary win. After all, the media worked overtime to remind us how large her margin of victory was going to be. Now that they’ve been proven so very wrong, they’re hoping that we forgot they helped fuel the record sales last year. Instead, they’re trying to convince us that Trump’s win is somehow bad for the firearms market.
Without President Obama’s vocal wishes to curtail the rights of gun owners and Hillary’s plans to do just that, the record highs of the past few years would not have existed in the first place. Remember: 2017’s first half was larger than any other year during Obama’s administration. Until Hillary threatened to occupy the Oval Office, not even the “greatest gun salesman in history” could convince Americans to buy more guns than they’ve bought so far in 2017.
Maybe it all depends on more than who is in the White House. Maybe Americans are just buying more guns. Some of it, of course, has to do with worry about the political situation or other big picture concerns. But the opportunities to own and carry guns have increased by a great deal.
The past several decades have seen, in general, a steady march toward more rights for gun owners. Concealed carry and “constitutional carry,” in particular, have expanded greatly in the past generation. Many of the states that have had concealed carry available have shifted from “may-issue” to “shall-issue,” giving more and more residents the opportunity to carry arms for self-defense. Court decisions, all the way from the Heller decision in the Supreme Court of the United States down to state and local decisions across the country, have made it easier for Americans to take advantage of their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.
The fear of Obama or Hillary implementing a draconian gun control plan has faded and the panic buyers have eased off. What is left unsaid, though, is that even without panic buyers gobbling up everything on the shelves, gun sales are still higher in 2017 than they had ever been until last year. The fact that they fell off only 9% from the all-time record year indicates that the bulk of the buying wasn’t being done by alarmists fearful of the White House’s occupant.
We are going to see gun sales normalize a little. There was a rush and now we’ll see the aftermath of the rush. A correction, of sorts. People bought some guns in 2016 that they would have otherwise bought in 2017 or 2018. But only some. Even though the mad rush may have deflated a bit, the core of the buying will continue unabated.
After all, even without worries of an assault weapon ban or a confiscation program, President Trump is “selling” more guns than Obama did in seven of his eight years as a salesman.