Right after Obama and the Hillary (or maybe it was the other way around) came out with strong calls for more gun control, followed by the New York Times editorial calling for a ban on assault rifles, there was an immediate spate of stories about how gun sales were once again going through the roof. And the ‘proof’ of this sales explosion was, of course, an increase in NICS background checks which showed a one-day surge on Black Friday that eclipsed previous Black Friday numbers by upwards of five percent.
Every time there’s a mass slaughter or a gun-grabbing threat or anything else which the NRA can use to prove that the 2nd Amendment is in jeopardy, every gun nut in America rushes out to add to his stockpile. Which means more guns in circulation, more guns ending up in ‘the street,’ more gun violence, yadda, yadda and yadda.
But before we get too concerned, perhaps we should take a deep breath and ask ourselves whether what we are saying aligns with the facts. Or better yet, when the media says it, do we simply accept what they say if it’s bad news about guns, or do we actually take the time to do a little data-mining for ourselves. In that regard I want to share a bit of data mining on NICS checks to see whether and to what degree the American private gun arsenal continues to expand.
Here are the real numbers. NICS checks for November, 2014 were 1.797,163. For the same month this year, the NICS total was 2,236,457, a month-to-month increase of almost 25 percent. Wow! The gun nuts are going crazy. In fact, I have to admit that I even bought a gun in November – a lovely Ruger in .222 caliber. Which tells you that I’m a real gun nut because I refer to a rifle as ’lovely.’ Anyway, there’s lonely one little problem with those numbers – the increase had little to do with gun sales.
Ready? NICS background checks for gun transfers in 2014 totaled 1,256,129. In 2015 the total increased to 1,354,845, i.e., a whopping 7 percent! So where did that 25% increase in NICS checks come from? It came from a doubling in the number of checks conducted to validate gun licenses, usually concealed-carry licenses which in some states requires a separate background check before a CCW license can be issued, or a re-check of the individual’s legal qualifications at some point after the license has been issued. In other words, what kept NICS so busy in November wasn’t what the pro-gun gang wants; i.e., more guns, it was what the GVP community wants; i.e., more background checks. Hello. Hello-o.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. The way I check the health of the gun market is not by looking at NICS data but looking at the market cost of guns. Because gun prices tend to be very elastic. The worst thing for a gun maker Is having unsold inventory sitting in the warehouse, ditto the wholesaler, ditto the retailer although in the case of the retailer, what he does when sales slow is to stop ordering guns. And the way I check prices is to go to the largest online retail seller, Bud’s Gun Shop, and take a quick look at what’s selling and what’s not.
Know what’s not selling? Assault rifles. Right after Sandy Hook you couldn’t buy a decent AR for under a thousand bucks. You can buy one today from Bud for less than $700, and although his listed prices for the premium guns are over a thou, next to every price there’s the tell-tale ‘Make Offer’ which means the real (lower) price is between him and you. Now you would think that after San Bernardino the price of assault rifles would be going through the roof. In fact, the prices seem to be heading for the basement. And that’s a very interesting turn of affairs. It really is.