After a major drop in gun sales following the election of President Donald Trump, sales have picked up again in recent months, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a firearms trade industry association.
Nearly 4.8 million firearms were sold between May and October, up more than 6.3 percent from 4.5 million in the same period the year before.
The trend appears to have accelerated in September and October, when sales were up 15 and 10 percent respectively from the same months in 2018.
The hike follows a major slowdown in sales that started in December 2016 following the election of Trump.
The numbers are based on the NSSF’s analysis of data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS ) system.
“While not a direct correlation to firearms sales, the NSSF adjusted NICS data provides a more accurate picture of current market conditions,” the foundation says in a footnote to the data.
As the data indicates, gun sales more than doubled between 2005 and 2016, reaching more than 15.7 million in 2016.
However, sales dropped by more than 11 percent in 2017 and then more than 6 percent in 2018, down to some 13.1 million.
“With the prospect of relaxed gun laws for the next four years, demand has diminished and guns sales in the US have waned,” The DataFace, a San Francisco data analysis company, reported in 2018.
It’s not clear why exactly the sales started to pick up again in May. It could be that some people were spooked by Trump’s ban on bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic rifles to fire as rapidly as automatic ones. At least some gun rights advocates opposed the ban.
But the administration announced the move already in December 2018, while gun sales still followed a downward trend for the next four months, the data indicates.
The acceleration of the sales hike in September and October followed heightened gun regulation rhetoric from Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke.
In early August, two shootings left a combined 32 dead and 51 injured. One happened in Dayton, Ohio, and one in El Paso, Texas, which was O’Rourke’s district.
Mass shootings are usually followed by increased gun sales, be it due to buyers’ safety concerns or because people expect a backlash to gun ownership from gun regulation advocates.
O’Rourke escalated his rhetoric after the shootings and proposed a mandatory buyback.
“I was asked how I’d address people’s fears that we will take away their assault rifles,” he said in a Sept. 2 tweet. “I want to be clear: That’s exactly what we’re going to do. Americans who own AR-15s and AK-47s will have to sell their assault weapons. All of them.”
He’s since repeated his position multiple times.
“Assault rifle” has become a somewhat loosely defined term commonly referring to rifles with a pistol grip, detachable magazine, and plastic features.
The NSSF defines such firearms as “modern sporting rifles.”
Despite being the most popular guns sold today, rifles have been involved in less than 3 percent of gun homicides in 2018, based on data most police agencies provide to the FBI. While 297 people were murdered using a rifle in 2018, more than 1,500 have been slashed or stabbed to death, 443 have been killed with a blunt object, such as a club or a hammer, and 672 have been beaten to death without weapons or objects.
Most Democratic presidential contenders support adding at least some firearm restrictions and all support an “assault weapons ban,” according to an August article by The Washington Free Beacon.
O’Rourke’s comments seems to have received most media coverage. The National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun rights advocacy group, informally labelled him the “AR-15 salesman of the month” in a September tweet.