The National Rifle Association said the media’s rumored “Trump Slump” is just that — an “exaggeration” propped up by the imperfect measurement of background checks.
The association claims, despite multiple media reports to the contrary, last month’s background checks signal a still-booming industry, ranking as the third busiest February in the federal system’s 19-year history.
“Comparing current data to the record high points doesn’t prove that sales have plummeted,” the association said. “It does indicate that the number of background checks performed – and so the number of permit applications and/or firearms purchases – is still at near-record levels.”
The association concluded by saying, “While ‘Trump Slump’ is a convenient phrase for a headline, it simply does not apply to background checks or gun sales.”
Checks processed through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check system serve as a proxy for gun sales nationwide — though not every application correlates to one firearm sold.
Some applicants buy more than one gun at a time and others may just be applying for a concealed carry permit. For these reasons, Guns.com and some industry analysts — including the National Shooting Sports Foundation — calculate an “adjusted” figure, which subtracts non-sales related checks from the total monthly number.
Firearms dealers processed just shy of 1.3 million adjusted background checks through NICS in February, a 25 percent increase over January, but still 12 percent behind the same month last year — the system’s biggest ever.
A review of adjusted NICS totals shows last month was indeed the third busiest February on record, though 2016 didn’t land at number one, either.
In February 2013, NICS processed more than 1.6 million adjusted background checks — 147,000 more than in the same month last year. The data correlates with a five-month spike in background checks in 2013 that spanned from January through May.
While it’s impossible to pinpoint an exact cause for the spike, an increase in sales is sometimes linked to mass shootings and the political climate. Both may have factored into the 2013 boom, which followed the December 2012 Sandy Hook shooting and the re-election of Barack Obama.
Still, NICS data shows background checks overall have been increasing steadily over the last two decades and don’t appear tied directly to any presidential administration or political party.
The NRA isn’t the only group crying foul over the ‘Trump Slump’ narrative, either.
In the weeks after the November election, NSSF general counsel Larry Keane called the media frenzy over falling gun stock prices in the wake of Donald Trump’s election win “the latest grist for their propaganda mill.”
In a Nov. 17 blog post, Keane chastised gun control groups for ignoring “long-term growth” in firearms sales tied to broader issues such as an increased participation in shooting sports and the effects of the Heller v. D.C. Supreme Court decision. Instead, he said, the “anti-gun narrative” relies on a caricature of the modern gun owners: aging, mostly white Americans amassing stockpiles of firearms in their “overflowing gun safes.”
“We know that argument is ridiculous, as any visitor to a retailer or range could quickly confirm,” he said. “Gun control organizations are constantly trying to minimize the size of the gun-owning American public as a way of trying to make the adoption of more laws and regulations appear more likely or even inevitable. That they are insulting our intelligence or even that of the American people as a whole doesn’t seem to bother them.”