Guns really are the gift that keeps on giving, and if December’s near-record NICS background checks mean anything, Americans gave a lot this holiday season. Looking back at the year as a whole, 2019 was another record-setter, with over 28 million background checks. That’s a 3% jump over the previous record from 2016. December was no slouch, either, with nearly 3 million NICS checks — the second-highest month on record.
The reason for 2016 being such a banner year for gun sales was clear. Barack Obama, as many others have noted, was perhaps the best firearms salesman in human history. Inadvertently, of course, but his constant threats and occasional actions to restrict gun ownership spurred millions to buy more and more guns. And in 2016, when it looked like Hillary Clinton was going to be our next president, American gun buyers stepped up like never before.
If I could, I’d get all 100,000,000 or so of us in a giant circle so we could all pat one another on the back.
But what’s driving record gun sales in a year like 2019, with no presidential or congressional election, Donald Trump ensconced in the White House (lame impeachment threat aside), and control of Congress safely divided?
I have a couple ideas.
The first is that as a people we’ve developed good habits. We seem to have concluded that the more guns you have, the more guns you want. You buy a new pistol or rifle, you take it down to the range to get good with it… and then you see other people with other guns. And you know what the problem is with those other guns, don’t you? That’s right: They’re not yours. And so the next thing you know, you’re back at your favorite gun shop filling out yet another NICS form for yet another firearm. Or as Dana Loesch confessed to attendees at the Bullets & Bourbon conference a few years back, “I can’t just buy one gun. I buy them two at a time so they don’t get lonely.” Repeat until really very seriously well-armed.
The other explanation is even more simple: Democrats. Or to be more specific about it: Virginia Democrats. The Dems managed to wrangle control of the governor’s mansion and the assembly, and almost immediately went on an anti-gun tear so serious that it’s ripping the state apart in ways we haven’t seen since West Virginia split off in 1861. It’s almost as though Democrats there are trying to throw a one-state Civil War. And unless they stop this nonsense (or get voted out in November — fingers crossed!) they might just get one.
I look at what’s going on in Virginia, and then I remember that Democrats control the entirety of my state government, too… and I start thinking about make a quick drive down to Magnum Shooting Center to see if they have any decent sales on the kinds of firearms Democrats hate most. Maybe I’ll even pick myself up a little something.
Multiply my thoughts by millions of gun enthusiasts in several Democrat-controlled states and what do you get? A banner year for gun sales.
Let’s remember, though, that NICS checks also include people applying for concealed carry permits. The FBI doesn’t break out the numbers of gun sales vs permits, but it’s safe to say that more law-abiding Americans are carrying than ever before. And while there might not be a causal relationship between more guns/less crime — correlation is not causation, after all — it’s demonstrably true that more guns have not meant more crime.
And those records only go until 2013, and as we just saw Americans have been on a huge gun-buying spree since then. Crime, despite some tragic headline-generating mass shootings, continues to decline.
So, well done, America. I’ll see you at the range.