Barack Obama, Gun Salesman?

Gun sales have boomed during the Obama administration, and the conventional wisdom is that Barack is responsible. Witnessing repeated attacks on the Second Amendment, Americans have lined up by the million to buy firearms before it is too late.

That narrative underlies this Free Beacon report:

The month of May saw yet another gun-related background check record making it the 13th month to see an all time high.

The FBI completed a record 1,870,000 checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, this May, according to an agency report. That’s almost 300,000 more checks than May of 2015, which set a record at the time.

It is also nearly a million more checks than May 2008.

Those numbers are staggering. I don’t doubt that the Democrats’ anti-firearms initiatives have something to do with the run on gun sales, but I think the firearms phenomenon is broader than that.

Historically, just about all rural and small town Americans owned long guns–rifles and/or shotguns. Handguns were generally the province of the city. As Americans migrated from rural areas to cities, the rate of gun ownership declined as fewer Americans owned rifles and shotguns.

But that trend has been reversed. The current boom relates to handguns and AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles, which never were a staple of rural life. Why are so many Americans now buying handguns and semi-automatic rifles? I think a number of trends have come together to produce the spike in gun sales.

My AR-15 at a gun range

My AR-15 at a gun range

First, the federal courts have resurrected the Second Amendment, holding repeatedly that Americans have a right to keep and bear arms. That has both legitimized firearms ownership and reduced legal obstacles to owning guns.

Second, millions of Americans who bought their first handguns or AR-15s in recent years have taken up shooting as a hobby. And they have found that it is fun. That lesson learned, they have continued to buy more firearms. As a Gander Mountain salesman once said to me, “No one ever buys just one gun.” My own experience is consistent with this observation: after shooting a .22 pistol with one of my brothers a few years ago, I got interested in guns and now own three pistols and two rifles. I will buy more before long, assuming my wife consents.


Third, firearms ownership has spread through the broader population. Most notably, more women than ever are buying guns, emulating media figures like Dana Loesch. Women and others who were first-time gun buyers during the last seven years are going back to dealers for more firearms in different styles and calibers.


So, yeah, Barack Obama may be history’s greatest gun salesman, but interest in firearms goes far beyond political trends of the moment. Even if the next president is a pro-gun Republican, I suspect that NICS records will continue to be set, as Americans indulge their longstanding interest in firearms.