For eight years, then-President Barack Obama was only semi-jokingly referred to as the gun salesman of the year by many firearm dealers. His anti-gun position and his repeatedly stated desire for gun control convinced many that if the president had his way, we’d be disarmed. As such, people flocked to gun stores to buy what they could before any ban could go into effect.
Luckily, there was no legislative will to give him what he wanted. There were lawmakers who wanted it to, such as the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but most lawmakers’ constituents weren’t interested.
For a long time, though, gun sales were largely driven by concerns over gun bans. When Trump took office, many of those concerns evaporated, which resulted in what many called the “Trump Slump.” Increased sales slowed down and manufacturers had geared up expecting another gun-grabber-in-chief. There was excess inventory that wasn’t moving as quickly as many figured.
With Biden in office, that was bound to change, and it did. It just didn’t change the way most people figured it would.
You see, gun purchases are still hitting record highs, they’re just doing it for a very different reason.
After 50 straight months of gun sales over 1 million, the driver of the historic trend appears to be shifting from concerns about government gun control to personal safety, according to firearms experts.
The FBI this week said that Americans continued to buy guns in huge numbers. The agency recorded 2,035,410 background checks in September and an industry trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said that translates into sales of over 1.1 million firearms.
New gun buyers continue to drive sales, and included in that group are women and minorities concerned about safety. They are different from many past buyers who were worried that liberal politicians would ban some gun sales, experts said.
And, they added, with the growth of violent crime and social media’s focus on it, there appears to be no end in sight for high gun purchases as Americans consider fighting back.
This isn’t overly surprising. Crime has been high since the riots of 2020 and while things are slowing down statistically, what we’re seeing on social media is a very different matter. The average person doesn’t think in statistics. That’s not what drives them at all. They look at crime in a way we didn’t used to see it and they react.
The same mechanism that drove many to embrace gun control–fear–now drives them to buy guns.
As a result, new gun sales aren’t about politics.
The thing is, that’s probably a good thing in the long run.
When it was just conservatives and libertarians buying guns, there was no reason for Democrats to concern themselves with those gun buyers. It’s not like your average Republican was going to vote for them anyway, so they could act with a certain degree of impunity if the rest of the public was ambivalent or even supportive of gun control.
For that matter, they could demonize gun buyers because there was absolutely no chance of it backfiring on them.
Now that gun sales are driven by concerns over crime, however, that’s likely to change. You can’t demonize newer gun owners if they’re from the same demographics your party typically courts. Suburban single moms, for example, are buying guns. You can’t paint them as paranoid militia members and still count on them voting blue.
To be sure, the same people who bought guns out of concern for gun control are still going to buy guns out of those same concerns. However, with another group stepping in to buy as well, things are going to get interesting for gun control advocates in the future.
My heart weeps for them.