A weekend story in the Washington Post that was published in other newspapers, reports that firearm and ammunition sales have “dropped precipitously since Election Day,” but a careful read of data from the FBI’s National Instant Check System suggests things are not so bad.
Indeed, the story as it appeared in the Portland (ME) Press Herald said this: “Gun clubs and shops that cater to black and LGBT clients say there has been an uptick in interest in firearms since November among those who fear that racial and gender-based violence could increase during Trump’s presidency.”
So, what’s really going on?
A record was set in December 2015 when the FBI conducted 3,314,594 NICS checks. This does not translate to one-on-one sales data, according to a caveat on the FBI’s website. But the number is a strong indicator of firearms sales.
In December 2016, NICS checks had fallen to 2,771,159, a decline of only about a half-million. But in January, there were only 2,043,184 checks conducted (as opposed to 2.545,802 checks in January 2016) and in February there was a slight uptick to 2,234,817 (down from the 2,613,074 in February 2016).
According to the story, stock value has fallen at publicly-traded companies, and sales of modern sporting rifles – the so-called “assault weapons” that anti-gunners want banned – have also declined in the election aftermath. That was predictable because many people were buying firearms in anticipation of a November victory for Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had made it clear early in the campaign she would push for stricter gun control. She had literally declared war on the so-called “gun lobby,” which proved to be a critical error because gun owners came out to vote in several key states.
But with Trump in the White House, another interesting situation has developed.
The story quoted Philip Smith, president of the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA). He told the newspaper that there is a concern among his members that “divisive politics” could descend into violence.
That already happened at a pro-Trump rally in Berkeley, California Saturday where counter protesters clashed with Donald Trump supporters. Likewise in Olympia Saturday, four people were arrested when violence erupted at the Capitol campus, according to the Seattle Times.
The press is being careful not to blame one side or the other for starting the brawls.