Earlier today we took a look at how gun control advocates are responding to another record-setting month for gun sales, but it’s worth digging deeper into the numbers themselves. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, last month there were 1,684,083 background checks conducted on firearm sales, which is an increase of 51.2 percent compared to sales in August of 2019. It’s also, however, a slight decline from July’s NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,848,307.
I think this is an indication of problems in the supply pipeline, rather than a slackening in the demand for firearms. When I spoke a couple of weeks ago to Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the NSSF, he had just returned from a field trip of sorts to a major firearms distributor. He reported that the warehouse shelves are just as bare as the display cases of your local gun store, and that both manufacturers and distributors are producing and delivering as much product as they can by adding shifts and employees.
It’s starting to look like the ceiling for firearms production in the United States is roughly around 2,000,000 per month, at least for the time being. Obviously manufacturers want to increase their production as long as there’s a market for it, but I’d say it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see a huge addition of manufacturing space until after the election and the industry has a better idea of what to plan for in the coming months and years.
Jurgen Brauer of Small Arms Analytics estimates that the number of gun sales was actually closer to 1.8-million in August, though he also saw a slight decline in sales compared to July, when he estimates there were 2-million gun sales.
“August’s year-over-year increase of 57.8% is the lowest year-over increase seen in the past six months. At nearly 15 million units sold, the sales pace thus far this year now exceeds the total 12-months sales of 2019 by just over one million firearms. With the hunting season about to begin in earnest and the presidential election season about to start in earnest as well, 2020 will without doubt exceed the previous high of 16.6 million units sold in 2016.”
So, we’ve already seen more firearms sold than in all of last year, and we still have four more months to go. Not only that, but the next four months typically are the busiest months of the year for the firearms industry under normal circumstances.
This year is anything but normal, in so many ways. Hunting licences have increased in several states, and given the economic uncertainty for so many Americans, deer season might be more popular than it’s been in a decade or more as people take to the field to put food in the freezer.
On top of that we have the elections, which tend to lead to a bump in sales, especially during presidential election years. On today’s VIP Gold live chat, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Biden/Harris campaign plays down the gun control issue over the next couple of months, in large part because “we want to make it harder to protect yourself” doesn’t really go well with “we want to take money from police departments” at a time when violent crime is rising in many cities across the country. It’s not that they’ve changed their mind, but they may well change their tune (or at least hum it quietly instead of belting it out towards the balcony).
In other words, don’t expect the Great Gun and Ammo Run of 2020 to subside anytime soon. Any decline in numbers over the next few months are far more likely to be the result of supply issues and not a lack of demand.