Thanks to a note from Mark Bryant, who founded and runs the awesome Gun Violence Archive, I remembered this morning to go and look at the monthly report from FBI-NICS, which details the number of background checks for every gun transferred over the counter by a federally-licensed dealer anywhere in the United States. I know, I know, background checks still don’t cover most private gun transfers, but since NICS does cover every sale of a new gun, the month-to-month comparison is a very exact way to understand the state of the gun industry and, by extension, the degree to which Americans want to own guns.
The NICS numbers for October are probably the most important monthly numbers of the entire year because the hunting season gets going in the Fall and even though a majority of American gun-owners don’t engage in hunting, this is when big-box stores like Cabela’s start running sales, this is when the Outdoor Channel starts showing hunters trekking through the Great Outdoors (although most of them go out to their blind in an ATV) so this is when the talk about guns is in the air. Bottom line: if you are a gun dealer and you don’t have a good monthly sales in October, you can kiss the year goodbye.
Ready for the October numbers? Hold on to the seat of your pants. Not only do the numbers for October show a remarkable lack of gun sales, the drop is much greater than what has been going on throughout the year. Everybody assumed that gun sales under Trump would never match what went on under the Kenyan, but to the great surprise of Gun-nut Nation, the drop-off following Trump’s inauguration was only about 10 percent. And given the extent to which sales during the Obama ‘regime’ were somewhat inflated due to the irrational fears pumped up by the boys in Fairfax about how all guns were going to disappear, dropping back to 90% of sales levels recorded in pre-Trump years wasn’t seen as all that bad.
On January 22, Smith & Wesson’s stock price was $20 bucks a share, yesterday it closed at $13.65. The old joke is that if you want to make a million in the gun business, start with two million. The joke seems to be coming back – this time in spades!
Now here are the actual numbers from NICS. Total background checks in October 2016 were 1,267,000. Background checks for last month were 1,037,628. For the nine months ending September 30, 2017 the overall drop in NICS was somewhere around 10 percent. For October it’s more like 20 percent! And remember that October is the beginning of the gun season; yea, some season. And by the way, the decline was greater in handguns than in long guns, and it’s handguns which now determine the health of the gun industry because everyone is supposed to be walking around armed, remember?
What the NICS numbers tell us is not just that the bloom is off the rose for the gun industry, but more important, that the attempt to promote gun sales by appealing to fears about crime and violence may be falling flat. And I have to assume until someone tells me otherwise, that what happened in Las Vegas last month and in Sutherland Springs this week may have finally been a game-changer when it comes to believing that someone, anyone is safer if they’re walking around with a gun.
Gun-nut Nation can celebrate all they want about the ‘good guy’ in Texas who stood outside the First Baptist Church, put a couple of slugs into Kelley as he was driving away. What about inside the Church which, by the way, certainly wasn’t a gun-free zone? As horrible as it seems, it may take deaths and injuries to hundreds of people in Vegas and Texas to finally convince Americans that ‘good guys with guns’ don’t offer any real protection against violence or crime. Is this worth the lives that have just been lost?
Thanks again Mark.