Do Comprehensive Background Checks Reduce Gun Violence? Not So Far.

Last week I posted a detailed paper on the Social Science Research Network in which I examined the arguments made by public health researchers and gun-control advocacy groups about the relationship between gun laws and gun violence; i.e., the stronger and more comprehensive the gun-control laws, the more gun violence goes down.

Figure 2              You can download and read the paper here, but I can save you some time by summarizing what I said. In brief, the point I made about the more gun laws = less gun violence is that the causal relationship between these two factors is vague, at best, and the way in which Brady and Giffords go about defining and judging the efficacy of different laws leaves some pretty big gaps.

The problem with trying to figure out whether any particular law will have any particular effect is that the only way to come up with a reasonably-accurate analysis is to compare the relevant behavior both before and after the law is passed.  But even studies which compare before-and-after behavior on what would appear to be a simple issue like speed limits and accident rates, often cannot take into account all the myriad social factors which affect a certain type of behavior beyond the existence or non-existence of a certain law. And if we know one thing about the behavior which produces gun violence, or any kind of violence for that matter, the origins, incidence and reasons for this behavior are terribly complicated and not given to any kind of simple or single cause.

On the other hand, for the first time we finally can look at the effects of a major change in gun laws, not just in terms of whether the new law made any real difference in gun violence rates, but whether the legal change met the expectations and claims of the advocate community which pushed for the change. I am referring to requiring FBI-NICS background checks for all gun transfers, which is probably Gun-control Nation’s single, most cherished goal, particularly because it happens to be the gun law where even gun owners appear to be falling into line; a recent public health survey found that more than 80% of both gun owners and non-gun owners agreed that comprehensive FBI-NICS checks were a good thing.

According to Brady, only 7 states currently impose comprehensive background checks on all gun sales. But four of these states – Colorado, Delaware, New York, Washington – passed their laws after the unspeakable tragedy at Newtown-Sandy Hook. As of 2014, all four states required that any change in the ownership of any kind of gun had to be validated by the intervention of a gun dealer who would initiate a background check. None of these states had a comprehensive background check law prior to 2014.

And here are the results by state, gun-violence rate and two years prior and two years after passage of a comprehensive background check law:

State 2012 2013 2015 2016
CO 2.22 2.01 2.51 2.91
DE 5.02 4.11 5.61 4.62
NY 2.22 1.93 2.07 1.98
WA 1.84 1.66 2.26 2.00

 

Note that New York was the only state which showed a decline in gun violence after a comprehensive law was passed, but this anomaly is probably explained by the aggressive, anti-gun program of the New York City cops. In Erie County, which includes Buffalo, the 2013 gun-violence rate was 4.1, it then dipped in 2015 to 3.88, but in 2016 went back to 4.1.

In a recent study that attempted to differentiate the impact of comprehensive background checks (CBC), as opposed to CBC which also required specific licensing for each gun sale (permit to purchase or PTP), researchers found “no benefit of a CBC system without a PTP law.”  But what if comprehensive background checks, rather than yielding no result, actually coincide with a significant increase in gun-violence rates? Oops! That’s not what gun-control laws are supposed to do. Not at all.

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Have Gun Sales Slowed Under Trump? Not As Much As You Might Think.

Back in February 2017, the first full month after Trump took the oath, the gun industry looked at sales numbers and began to complain.  On the one, Trump’s electoral surprise meant that gun makers didn’t have to worry about Hillary’s nefarious gun-control plans; on the other hand, with a pro-gun guy now running the show, fears about not being able to buy guys would subside and gun sales would also go down.

shows            And make no mistake about it, the heady days of the all-time gun-grabber Obama were now in the past. FBI-NICS background checks for February 2016 were 1,380,520 for all guns; background check numbers for February 2017 registered 1,199,692, a drop of 13%.  And between tax refunds, some cash for ploughing and a left-over bundle from X-mas gifts, February has always been a good month for buying guns.

But what about the rest of the year and the years to come?  There’s a reason why Smith & Wesson’s stock price was over $20 a share when Trump was inaugurated and is selling for around half that price right now.  The reason is the same reason that has always dominated the ups and downs of the gun market, namely, that most people who buy guns already own guns, and without new customers the sale of any consumer product will be largely influenced by whether current owners of that product believe they can continue to buy and own more of what they already have.

I have been in the gun business, one way or another, for more than 50 years. And I have never met a single gun owner who only owned one gun.  Maybe ‘never’ is too strong a word because there are certainly lots of households which contain a gun only because it belonged to grandpa and when he passed on, the gun represented some kind of family icon so nobody wanted to throw it out. But according to recent surveys, the average gun owner has 3 or 4 bangers lying round the house, and somewhere around 7 million gun nuts own, on average, 17 guns each. Right now I personally have somewhere around 60 guns within easy reach, which I don’t think is ant big deal.  I knew a guy whose house contained at least 300 guns and I suspect that by now he’s added maybe 50 more.

Why in God’s name would I need to own 60 guns?  You think my wife doesn’t own at least 50 pairs of shoes?  But a gun isn’t like a pair of shoes, right?  You can’t kill someone with a shoe.  So what.  What’s one thing got to do with the other?  Nothing, that’s what. Anyway, to get back to the gun business.

Using FBI-NICS checks as a proxy, gun sales in 2018 are running about 13% below 2017. There was a spike shortly after Las Vegas, which pushed up 2017 numbers, and another spike after Parkland, which did the same thing for 2018.  But this graph showing monthly background checks for handguns clearly indicates that the Trump bloom is off the Obama rose.

NICS handguns

              On the other hand, more than 3,750,000 handguns have moved between dealers and customers from January 1, 2017 through June 30 of this year, and if the estimates on the number of Americans who own guns is correct, then it may be the case that one out of every ten gun owners added an additional handgun to their collections over the past 18 months.

The point is that even though the gun industry depends for its existence on the same group of buyers buying more guns, the good news is that, by and large, gun owners still want to keep, own and buy guns. Which is why Gun-control Nation still has to figure out how to convince gun owners that they would be better off without their guns. Because as long as gun owners want their personal gun collections to get bigger, the gun industry will continue to sell guns.

Do More Gun Laws Equal Less Gun Violence?

The United States got into gun control big time when we passed the National Firearms Act (NFA) in 1934.  This law, still on the books, created a category of small arms that were considered too dangerous for everyday purchase or use – machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, etc. – and required people who wanted to own such guns to undergo a very lengthy and expensive background check process known today as Class III.

Kansas City             Many industrialized countries passed gun-control laws just before or after World War II, many copied our NFA with one, major exception; namely, countries like Germany, France, Italy, Austria and others put handguns on the restricted list. This is the reason we have gun violence and those countries don’t – it’s because Americans have easy access to handguns. And even though we still don’t know exactly how guns move from the legal to the illegal market and then get used in violent crime, what we do know is that, one way or another, it happens again and again where handguns are concerned.

Most states allow residents to buy a handgun following the standard, FBI-NICS background check. But some jurisdictions respond to handgun criminality by instituting a system known as permit-to-purchase (PTP.)   There are currently 9 states which, in addition to the NICS process, also do a pre-purchase background check at the state level, thus making the vetting for handgun purchases more detailed. Our friends at the Hopkins gun-research group recently published a study comparing gun-homicide rates between states with and without PTP, and it turns out that states which impose PTP on handgun purchases suffer a much lower rate of gun homicides than states which don’t require PTP.

Notwithstanding the difference in gun-violence rates between states with a PTP process as opposed to states without, how can we be sure that a change in a specific legal process and a change in a specific type of behavior governed by that legal process is based on some degree of causality rather than just coincidence between two trends?  To eliminate or at least discount other explanatory factors, the Hopkins researchers create regression models using poverty, unemployment, incarceration and other data usually associated with criminal events, as well as controlling for non-firearm homicide rates. Finally, and here is a major step forward in this type of research, the Hopkins group looked specifically at large, urban jurisdictions rather than state-level trends because most gun violence occurs within heavily-populated, urban zones.

Using what has become a standard list of characteristics associated with violence allows the Hopkins findings to be compared with other studies which utilizing similar demographic and criminal controls. But I wonder whether gun-violence researchers should perhaps widen the list of characteristics used to define these controls.  For example, in Kansas City, reported gun thefts jumped 50 percent from 2015 to 2017 – from 588 guns reported stolen to 886. During the same period, gun homicides nearly doubled as well.

How do we know that the increase in Missouri gun homicide after 2007 wasn’t more related to an increase in the availability of stolen guns than in the ability of purchasers to buy a handgun without undergoing a PTP check? We can hypothesize all we want that by removing the PTP process from private handgun sales (which is what the 2007 change in the Missouri law was all about) that more guns moved from legal to illegal hands. As a matter of fact, it probably does mean something along those lines, but unless we know the provenance of all or at least some of those stolen guns, why should we assume that a change in the PTP law is what led to an increase in homicides tied to guns?

Homicide remains the most aberrant and inexplicable form of human behavior, made even more aberrant and inexplicable with the presence of a gun. I would like to believe that we can control this behavior with some rational and practical legal strategies, but do the studies tying gun violence rates to the absence or presence of certain gun laws prove this to be true?

 

 

 

The Gun Business Ain’t What It Used To Be.

Until Trump stuck his fat rear end on the chair behind the President’s Oval Office desk, the gun industry could count on three things: (1). a mass shooting from time to time; (2). a whine from Obama about how something had to be done; (3). an upsurge in gun sales. The only one of those three events which has continued into the so-called ‘administration’ of Trump is the first one. But neither Las Vegas, Parkland or Santa Fe has moved the gun sales needle to the right.  To the contrary, gun sales are not just down, they are staying down.

FBI              In May, total FBI-NICS checks were 1,983,346; the total for May 2017 was 1,898,840.  Hey – that’s not so bad, right?  Except for one little thing. The NICS phone bank isn’t just used for the over-the-counter transfer of guns from dealer to customer; it’s also used for license checks and re-checks, guns going in and out of pawn and private transactions between gun owners themselves. So the real number to watch each month is the percentage of monthly checks representing over-the-counter movement of guns, with the further caveat that as much as 40% of that number probably represents used guns.

Here: the bottom line: in May, for the first time since permit and license background checks were added to the monthly report (February 2016) the percentage of total checks for over-the-counter gun transfers dropped substantially below 50% of all calls to the FBI, and May-to-May transfer checks dropped from 926,516 to 841,583, down by roughly 10 percent.  Now let’s assume that of those 840,000 checks, perhaps 40% covered guns that had previously been sold and were now going out of gun shops as used guns.  Which means that the entire gun making industry moved less than 500,000 new guns into America’s private gun arsenal.

Now 500,000 guns isn’t exactly chopped liver, but when you consider that there are somewhere between 80 to 100-million gun owners throughout the United States, half a million guns isn’t such a big deal. And it’s certainly not a big enough deal to keep all those gun companies afloat who either started producing or expanded production during the heady days of the Obama regime. No wonder that Smith & Wesson’s stock has dropped from $30 to $12 dollars since the middle of 2016 and was actually down under $10 a share last month.  Ruger is doing better – during the same time-period its stock price has shrunk by 25 percent. But Ruger stock is closely held; they haven’t done what Smith did, i.e., rename the company to something called ‘Outdoor Brands’ with a subsequent price drop of the stock by only 50 percent.

By the way, for all the hot air and nonsense about Americans arming themselves because they can’t trust their government to provide for the common defense, the percentage of handgun background checks as a percentage of all gun background checks sits month after month at 60 percent. Now you would think that between Dana Loesch telling women that they should all be armed to Sean Hannity pimping for the United States Concealed Carry Association, that handgun sales would be bucking the downward sales trend. The whole notion of marketing concealed-carry is beginning to smell a little bit like the Edsel, if you know what I mean.

The gun industry has always had a basic problem, namely, that unless you like the noise and excitement of pulling the trigger and the thing goes – bang! – there’s simply no reason to own a gun. And worse, the damn things don’t wear out. So how does a consumer industry grow its profits when nobody really needs what they make plus the product’s obsolescence is fifty years or more? And into the bargain, we now have those fresh-faced high school kids popping up all over the place and saying that guns just aren’t hip or cool.

I think my gun shop is ready to be turned into a mini-mart.

guns for good guys  Buy it or read it on Amazon.

 

How Come Gun Sales Haven’t Shown A Parkland ‘Spike?’

Whenever a mass shooting occurred under the Obama ‘regime,’ the President would deliver a teary speech, the usual suspects in Congress and the gun violence prevention (GVP) community would call for a new gun-control law and gun sales would go through the roof.  This was the scenario after Aurora, after the shooting of Gabby, after Sandy Hook.

march              Parkland has been different because the gun-control organizations won’t be getting their marching orders from the liberal political establishment and Draft Dodging Trump; this time the whole shebang is being led by a bunch of kids. And if you don’t think that Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg haven’t pushed the whole issue of gun control into a totally different context, just ask Laura Ingraham how she’s doing getting new sponsors for her television show.

What has also changed since Parkland is the degree to which the gun industry can no longer live off of panic buying generated by fears that guns will no longer be around. The FBI has just released its NICS numbers for March, an event which used to be greeted by Gun-nut Nation with paroxysms of joy, but the numbers for last month landed with a dull thud.

Here are the relevant numbers:  Handgun checks in March 2018 were 781,452; the number for March 2017 was 751,866, which is basically the same. Overall month-to-month NICS checks did increase from 1,274,419 in 2017 to 1,417,463 this year, a gain of 11%, but checks in February 2013, when Obama was ramping up his post-Newtown gun bill were more than 1.5 million, a number that won’t happen again.

One interesting caveat is that the number of NICS checks for the category known as ‘other’ doubled from 38,684 in 2017 to 68,192 this year.  For the most part, a background check classified as ‘other’ is used when someone buys a serialized receiver which isn’t connected to a barrel or a stock. The transaction still requires a background check but the owner has to then add various components so that he actually can fire the gun, which is increasingly how AR-15 rifles are now sold. One of the reasons the AR-15 is so popular is that the polymer frame can easily be adapted to all kinds of accessories and do-it-yourself parts; this also reduces the price of the gun by as much as half.

I truly believe that the Parkland kids have accomplished what none of the organizations which comprise the GVP community have ever done before; namely, they have shifted the argument about gun violence away from the political arena to where it really belongs, namely, as an issue which ultimately needs to be decided by the people who own guns. Because either the gun-owning community will realize that they simply don’t need to own any more of the damn things or people who don’t own guns will decide that they don’t need to own them at all. If Gun-nut Nation stops registering its fears about losing their guns by stampeding into gun shops every time a liberal politician says something about needing more gun control, passing sensible and effective gun laws will be a piece of cake.

In the interests of full disclosure, however, I must add a note about the current regulatory environment itself. I am not particularly sanguine about enhancing gun regulations if it means granting more power or authority to the ATF.  The ATF lab is probably the best forensic lab in the world, but the regulatory division contains the biggest bunch of liars, inept fools and misfits who could ever be put together in any federal agency at all. This is the bunch that violated countless laws because they thought that a repair garage in Arizona was converting semi-auto AK rifles into full-auto jobs. This is also the bunch which convinced themselves that David Koresh was making machine guns in his compound outside of Waco, a totally-mistaken belief which cost 75 lives.

I am really happy that a bunch of kids are leading the effort rather than a bunch of GVP organizations taking their cues from on high. But give the ATF more authority to regulate guns?  Please.

 

 

 

Want To Make A Million In The Gun Business? Start With Two Million.

If you decided to invest in the stock market on June 15, the Dow that day stood at 21,359. The day after Thanksgiving it closed at 23,557. In other words, just about any stock you would have bought in June was probably up at least 10% over the following five months. Unless you made the mistake of buying Smith & Wesson stock, which was selling for $24 on June 15 and closed on November 24 at $13 a share. You would have done a little better with Sturm, Ruger, which was at $68 a share in mid-June and ended last week at $50, a nosedive of ‘only’ 25 percent.
stock prices

Talk about a Black Friday! The old joke used to be that if you wanted to make a million in the gun business, start with two million. That old joke seems to be coming true in spades! But if that’s the case, and I thank our good buddy Shaun Dakin for pointing this out, how come the FBI-NICS background check system set a new, single-day record for the number of received calls? They claim they were ‘flooded’ with 203,086 calls on Friday, which broke the single-day record of calls – 185,713 – set on Black Friday in 2016.
Before all my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community start lamenting that America is once again becoming awash with guns, let’s remember that on average, more than 40% of the calls received by NICS are for license verifications, private sales and other issues which have nothing to do with the over-the-counter movement of guns. And when the FBI publishes their total monthly stats for November, I’ll take the short odds that retail gun sales will continue to show the same 15% slide that has been going on all year.
Want to see a really great investment opportunity in guns? Add some corporate debt bonds issued by Remington Arms, which has dropped from $65 to $14 over the last six weeks. And it appears that this trend will not only continue but may get worse, with Remington broadly hinting that a default on their debt may not be far behind. And the reason why their bonds are turning into junk is the same reason that prices for Ruger and S&W stock continue to fall, namely, that nobody’s buying their guns.
Incidentally, Remington happens to be the ‘flagship’ company for an outfit known as the Freedom Group, which was the brainchild of an amateur gun nut named Steve Feinberg who cobbled Remington together with Bushmaster, DPMS, Marlin and a couple of smaller companies to create what was described as the leading “innovator, designer, manufacturer and marketer of guns and ammunition” anywhere, anytime, anyplace. I’m quoting from the press release for what was supposed to be a big $200 million IPO in 2010. Now they can’t pay off their $275 million debt. Oh well, oh well.
I don’t follow the ins and outs of the stock market but I do know something about the price of guns. Right now I can buy a Smith & Wesson Shield pistol from Bud’s Gun Shop for $299. I can buy the same gun from the Grab-A-Gun website for $279. I’ll have to pay my local dealer a few bucks to do the transfer, but a year ago that gun was selling for $379. I can pick up a Ruger AR-15 for under 600 bucks; that man-killer used to sell for $899 or more.
In my lifetime I remember when every, single American kitchen had a Mixmaster next to the stove. I also remember when I first put my hands on the keyboard of an electric typewriter made by IBM. If the stock prices of S&W and Ruger continue to slide, those company names will wind up like Studebaker, Philco and Trump Air. Remember something called a pay phone?

 

Don’t Worry – The NRA Isn’t Losing Any Sleep Over ‘Fix NICS.’

Want to start your day off with a good laugh? Take a look at Wayne-o LaPierre blasting off into outer space in 2016 with a video message about the FBI-NICS background check system which came out two years before last week’s Fix-NICS bill was introduced by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), a long-time ‘enemy’ of the 2nd Amendment and John Cornyn (R-TX), one of the NRA’s best friends.

wayne              Everyone loves this bill.  The NRA and the NSSF jumped on board; ditto Gabby Giffords and Everytown – Moms.  Well, almost everyone. The group which claims it’s the only group standing between freedom and fascism, a.k.a. Gun Owners of America, told its members to demand that we stop trying to ‘fix an unconstitutional system’ because background checks of any kind are an ‘infringement on 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

But back to Wayne-o patting himself on the back for being a champion of FBI-NICS.  Ultimately the NRA had no choice but to support the Brady bill because the idea of an instant background check enjoyed wide public support back then, just as an extension of background checks to secondary transfers appears to enjoy the same degree of public support now.  But as a detailed report from the Brady Campaign points out, the moment that the Brady bill became law, the NRA began attacking its constitutional validity even before the system went online.

So when Wayne-o states that the NRA has ‘fought for 20 years’ to put the records of persons adjudicated to be mentally incompetent into the NICS system, what he should have said is that America’s oldest civil-rights organization has fought to keep the FBI-NICS system as far away from being an effective tool for reducing gun violence as it can. But when you watch this video and the phrase ‘the truth about background checks’ flashes across the screen, you can be sure that ol’ Wayne is getting ready to blast off into outer space.

But now that Congress appears ready to do exactly what the NRA claims should have always been done, namely, to make sure that the data sent to NICS really includes the names of every individual whose background, under current law, does not allow them to own a gun, what should the boys from Fairfax be doing to prove their commitment to 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ Because if this bill gets a positive vote and the Trumpster signs it into law, the NRA’s rationale for not expanding background checks to secondary sales disappears.

I’m not saying that the process of widening background check procedures to go beyond over-the-counter sales would be a walk in the park or a day at the beach. But the good news is that the NRA has been forced to support the idea that only ‘law-abiding citizens’ should be able to own guns. And if NICS is fixed to everyone’s satisfaction in a way that really prevents the criminals, the drug abusers and the mentally ill from walking into a gun shop and buying a gun, the idea that private gun transfers requiring background checks is a violation of the 2nd Amendment wouldn’t pass muster in any court.

When all is said and done, the NRA’s opposition to background checks boils down to one, simple thing; namely, that government regulation of the gun industry is a bad and unnecessary thing. In that respect, the gun industry’s opposition to regulation is no different from every other industry – banks, financial services, energy, you-name-it – who want to lessen the regulatory burden because one way or another, regulations drive up costs.

The NRA, the 2nd-Amendment Foundation, Sean Hannity and every other pro-gun noisemaker can talk about gun ownership as a Constitutional ‘right’ all they want. But it’s simply a convenient catch-phrase for obscuring a basic truth. And that truth happens to be the unalterable fact that if someone aims a loaded gun at themselves or someone else and then pulls the trigger, the damage can be immense.  And only government has the resources and the authority to prevent such acts from taking place.

FIX NICS? Not A Bad Idea.

              The Mountain Shakes and Out Comes A Mouse ~ AESOP’S FABLES.

Is this how we should view the ‘FIX NICS’ bill introduced in the Senate today sponsored by Senators Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), the latter who’s also shepherding the national CCW-reciprocity bill through Congress and onto Trump’s Oval Office desk?

NICS

Or perhaps we should refer to this bill as ‘Better Late Than Never’ because it plugs some holes in a process which is only twenty-five years old.

Figures that the Wise Men and Women of the U.S. Senate would come up with something after the recent spate of mass shootings which seem to be breaking out with almost weekly regularity after almost a year’s peace and quiet following the inauguration of You-Know-Who. And by the way, don’t think for one second that John Cornyn didn’t get his marching orders from the folks he represents who work in Fairfax, VA even though he’s supposedly the senior senator from the Lone Star State. Because what the NRA doesn’t want their Faithful to know is that they have quietly supported laws which strip domestic abusers of their guns in Oregon, South Carolina, Wisconsin and several other states.

In short, what the Cornyn-Murphy bill creates is a process that will providing funding to states which develop and implement a better fail-safe system for sending relevant information to FBI-NICS, and also require the Justice Department to evaluate the extent to which every federal agency (read: Department of Defense), and state meets the compliance goals.  It also creates a new program which (I quote from the Press Release which accompanied the bill makes sure that, “states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS showing that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms under current law.”

The phrase, ‘under current law’ obviously refers to the questions which must be answered prior to a background check by everyone who walks into a gun store and buys a gun. If you reply in the affirmative to any of these questions about your legal background, you fall into what is called a ‘prohibited category’ and in theory, the FBI will find you in their database and the purchase or transfer will be denied.  The whole point of the FIX-NICS law is to make sure that every jurisdiction sends forward all the information in their possession to keep the names of all ‘prohibited person’ accurate and up to date.

Generally speaking, you cannot get a gun if you are “under indictment or have ever been convicted in any court for a felony, or any other crime for which a judge could imprison you for more than one year.  You also are a ‘prohibited person’ if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.  But here’s where things get tricky. The NICS approval goes through if you were convicted of a misdemeanor other than domestic violence punishable by ‘’two years or less.”  And how many state felonies are plea bargained down to misdemeanors?  Plenty.

The good news about this bill is that any time the word gets around Gun Land that the government is ‘cracking down,’ don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but people become more serious about complying with the law.  I’m not saying that gun owners aren’t law-abiding. Of course they are. But if you live in state which doesn’t require a background check for a private gun sale, all of a sudden the number of such checks starts going up. If you have lots of guns lying around the house, maybe you buy a safe and start locking the bangers away.

The FIX-NICS won’t put the fear of God into anyone who wants to use a gun in an illegal or improper way. But it does bring government back into the issue of gun safety, and that is exactly where the government belongs.

 

Are We Finally Getting Sick Of Guns?

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.

texas             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.

Everyone Supports Universal Background Checks. So What?

As a member of the NRA (I’m actually an endowment member so they can’t throw me out no matter what I say) I get emails from the NRA-ILA alerting me to state and federal gun laws which either weaken or strengthen gun ‘rights’ and the NRA’s response to such laws on both sides. The NRA has never bumped into a law which might make it more difficult for red-blooded Americans to exercise those precious 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ but as a follower of don Corleone’s admonition to Michael about keeping friends close but enemies closer, I always read what the NRA-ILA has to say.

NICS   The last missive I received contained a summary of laws recently introduced in Congress which represent “longstanding proposals that would burden innocent Americans at every turn.”  Chief among these proposals is the old bugaboo about ‘universal’ background checks which the NRA characterizes as a “perennial favorite of the gun control crowd,” because it “seeks to interpose the government (and expensive fees) into every exchange of firearms, including between trusted neighbors, close friends, and even family members,”  This warning is then followed by the NRA’s coup de grace statement about all GVP-backed legislation, namely, that it will “chip away at the right to keep and bear arms until it becomes out of reach to the average American.” The same, old, slippery-slope argument which is used against ‘responsible’ gun regulations every, single time.

The gun violence prevention (GVP) community always cites the endless public surveys which allegedly show that a solid majority of Americans, even gun-owning Americans, even NRA, gun-owning Americans, are in favor of some extension of background checks beyond the initial, over-the-counter sale. I don’t believe these polls not just because the NRA is totally against such an idea, but because those survey results don’t square with anything I ever experienced in selling more than 12,000 rifles, shotguns and handguns in my own retail gun store.

I can guarantee you that every time I sold a gun in my shop, the purchaser filled out an ATF Form 4473 which I then used to contact the FBI-NICS examiners in West Virginia in order to get an approval for the sale.  When the ATF audited my shop in 2013, they couldn’t find one, single instances in which we failed to get FBI-NICS approval before completing a sale. But I can tell you that at least half the customers made overt and nasty comments about the ‘goddamn government,’ or the ‘goddamn Kennedys,’ or the ‘goddamn Clintons’ while they were filling out the 4473 form.  And I can also say without fear of contradiction that had the instant FBI-NICS check been voluntary, those same customers would have turned it down.

Nobody likes the government when it comes to be told what we must do.  We pay taxes because we have to pay them, we (usually) drive at the speed limit because otherwise we might end up adding points to our license, paying a fine and seeing our insurance rates go up. In fact, many of us wouldn’t even bother to buy automobile insurance except we don’t have a choice. So why would anyone believe that just because people say that FBI-NICS is a ‘good thing,’ that those same folks can’t wait for the imposition of universal background checks?

Last month more than 26,000 guns were purchased in New York. How many private gun transfers took place? Less than 700. In New York State every gun transfer now requires a NICS background check, and it is simply not possible that in a state as big as New York that less than 3% of all gun transfers go between private hands. And yet many of the same folks who can’t be bothered to walk into a gun shop to give a gun to someone else will say they support universal NICS checks.

Know why the NRA opposes NICS checks? Because they know how gun owners really think, which is still something of a mystery for the GVP.