Gun sales were up in the U.S. during 2011. The good news for the industry is that business in 2012 promises to be just as good or even better. In January 2012, the National Shooting Sports Foundation's (NSSF) adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) numbers showed an increase of 17.3 percent in gun purchase related checks compared to the same time period the previous year. January marks 20 straight months of increased NICS report requests.
Some anti-gunners reject the idea of using NICS reports to track gun sales. They say there's no way to prove that every single check resulted in the purchase of one or more firearms. Fair enough, if you're going to split hairs. Instead, we'll just have to settle for saying that the number of individuals willing to drive to a gun store, tell the gun seller they want to buy a gun, fill out the forms for said purchase, and pay the fee required for a NICS report, has steadily increased for more than a year and a half.
Another indicator of firearms industry health is attendance at the annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) held in Las Vegas. In January, SHOT Show reached a new record with more than 61,000 in attendance, including over 36,000 buyers shaking hands with 1,600 exhibitors. Although the show has been well attended for several years, not every year is a good one for manufacturers. This year was different. In speaking with a variety of gun and ammunition company representatives since the show, they've all had the same good news to share. They left the show exhausted and happy because of the large sets of inventory scheduled to ship in the course of the show.
It's good to know the folks in this industry are currently enjoying some much needed job security. But this increased level of gun sales begs an important question: If the country is still suffering from a weak economy, with many individuals struggling to keep their heads above water, why are people choosing to part with their precious cash resources to buy firearms?
The available numbers indicate that, in general, people in the United States seem to have a more positive attitude towards gun ownership today than in the past. For example, a recent Gallup poll shows the number of participants in favor of banning handguns has dropped to a record low of 26 percent compared to 60 percent in 1959. When asked if so called "assault rifles" should be banned, 53 percent said no. Those in favor of enforcing the gun laws on the books are up to 60 percent, while those who want additional regulations are down to 35 percent.
As hopeful and helpful as poll results are, they still don't answer the fundamental question: Why has there been a shift to a much more pro-gun stance? Hard numbers and statistics are not readily available to delve into the minds of those who are choosing to purchase firearms at this time. Instead, we'll have to settle for what can be called informed conjecture. Here are a few of the most popular theories for accelerated gun sales that regularly show up in the conversations around the industry's collective office water cooler:
Shooting's New Positive Media Image
Popular mainstream television programs about guns and shooting, such as Top Shot, are sparking viewer interest in the sport. While the competitive and informational aspects of these shows are entertaining, the programs also disprove many of the negative stereotypes surrounding gun ownership. As a result, many first-time shooters are making their way to the range.
An Attitude of Self-Reliance
As the country continues to suffer from a weak economy, it seems counterintuitive that individuals would chose to invest in relatively expensive items like firearms and ammunition. However, with no relief in sight for the high unemployment rates, along with continued cuts in funding for important law enforcement services, more people are choosing to take personal responsibility for their safety. The sales of compact handguns for legal concealed carry are steady and strong. Greater access to concealed weapons permits has fueled a surge in women choosing to become gun owners. According to a Gallup poll, a record 43 percent of women in America say they have a firearm in their home.
The 2012 Elections
As this year's Presidential election approaches, Second Amendment advocates are energetic in emphasizing that voters choosing to keep President Obama in office would deal a devastating blow to gun rights. Obama's arrival in the White House helped to generate record gun sales in 2009. His appointment of anti-gun justices to the U.S. Supreme court, the Fast & Furious scandal and his open support of the United Nation's gun ban treaty have worked to fuel gun owners' concerns. Although Obama is purposefully stepping around gun related issues as he ramps up his campaign, gun buyers are likely to keep gun sales high in 2012 if it appears the President will win.
Are you planning to buy firearms this year? If so, what's your motivation?