As we pointed out yesterday, the FBI is out with its gun background check data for February — the first full month since the NRA-friendly administration of President Donald Trump took office. On first pass, the numbers, which are the most commonly-cited proxy for gun sales, suggest that the firearms industry has settled into what some analysts are calling a "Trump slump." ( Or, if you prefer, "Trump trough.") While Barack Obama was in the White House and Hillary Clinton was campaigning for it, exaggerated fears of strict new regulations sent some gun fans rushing to stores to stock up while they still could. Now that the fever has broken, demand is slipping: The total number of checks completed by NICS fell to 2.2 million last month, from 2.6 million in February 2016. It’s the third month in a row to end with a year-over-year dip.The Trace pointed to Ruger CEO Michael Fifer's response to questions from Business Insider for the industry's perspective on the numbers:
But a dive into historical background check stats shows that the gun business is hardly in a freefall. The recent numbers are low only when compared to the unprecedented stretch that lasted from May 2015 through November 2016, during which new monthly background check records were set 18 months in a row. Yes, February 2017 was down, but not by that much: The FBI still processed more background checks last month than in any month before the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012.
"I think we've kind of seen the story before where you'll get a big politically-driven spike: they tend to be fairly short and they're followed by an offsetting decline in demand for a while, and then everything's returned to what I would call normal. You've got the same factors driving interest. You've got more concealed carry in more states. You've got more new shooters coming along. You've got – generally, it's more socially acceptable to admit to your friends that you actually like guns and enjoy having them, and by the way, come look at the newest one I just bought, let me show it to you.Looking at those background check numbers, you get a picture of what the "new normal" is:
All that stuff drives demand. And in some municipalities, you have the cops backing off. They're being seen by the media too often as the enemy. And so, they're backing off, and crime rates in those cities are soaring to the roof. Those people could care less who's President. They want to defend themselves.
So, all of those drivers come back, so every time you have a really tiny spike or some political reason, it's usually offset. I think we could be observing that now. And then it returns to normal. And I don't think any of the other reasons have changed, so I doubt that the new normal will be materially lower than where we were going before.
It appears to me, if you look over multiple years, that there's wider acceptance of guns, wider availability. There's more exciting, new products from all the competitors, not just Ruger. There's more reasons to have guns now than ever before. And so, I'm not going to read too much into the current situation."
suggestions for dealing with the new times in what will be a four-part series "From the Counter" where they talk with retailers to get a sense of how they are dealing with the new environment.
Just a little anecdotal evidence, I was purchasing a new handgun last month and there were six other people doing the same on the week night evening I was doing so, two were a husband and wife and both purchased a handgun. The guy behind the counter said he could not believe how many people had been in on a Wednesday night to buy a gun.