Historic City News reporters learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation ran 202,465 criminal background checks on Black Friday alone this year, seen as a strong indicator of gun sales. In fact, according to an article published by the Associated Press, at the close of November, more than 25.4 million record checks had been conducted by the FBI.
This influx of activity puts 2019 on track to break the record of 27.5 million firearms background checks performed by the FBI in 2016. Those in the gun industry, represented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, attribute the rush of Americans to buy weapons as a reaction to calls for tighter restrictions on gun sales being supported by Democrats running for president.
“The politics of guns has changed a little bit over the last year,” Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, and an expert on gun rights and politics, was quoted. “As we’re coming up upon the 2020 election, President Trump, one of the most gun-friendly presidents in modern history, is vulnerable. Democrats who want to be presidential contenders are falling all over themselves to propose more aggressive gun reforms than their opponents.”
Amid some high-profile mass shootings in recent years, especially the Parkland school attack here in Florida, and the gunman who killed 58 people in Las Vegas in 2017, gun control advocates have gained some momentum. The 2020 presidential election, less than a year out, has the crowded field of Democrats offering proposals to restrict access to firearms. Those fears appear to be driving gun sales up again.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, relied on for these figures, was created after passage of the Brady Bill, which mandated background checks to buy a firearm. Convicted felons, domestic abusers and people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution are among those who cannot legally purchase a weapon in the United States.
The industry has been going through one of its toughest periods, with some gunmakers, such as Remington Arms, filing for bankruptcy. More recently, Smith & Wesson’s parent company, American Outdoor Brands, announced plans to spin off its firearms unit, and Colt said it would suspend production of AR-15 rifles.
“Gunmakers are promoting the idea that you should buy these guns now because they may be banned in the future,” Winkler said.
Some analysts question how accurately the background check figures translate into gun sales, since some states run checks on applications for concealed-carry permits, too, and some purchases involve multiple firearms. But the numbers remain the most reliable method of tracking the industry.