The gun industry’s leading trade association said earlier this month the media misses the mark when speculating about fluctuating gun sales.
The real reason why background checks — and by proxy, gun sales — ebb and flow, said Larry Keane, NSSF’s general counsel, is a lot less salacious than impending gun control or terrorism.
“Although we at NSSF point this out all the time and we are often quoted, the underlying sales factor that gets short shrift is that more people are participating in the shooting sports,” he said June 8. “While many new shooters first try their hand with a rental or loaner, active participation in a shooting sport generally leads individuals to buy a gun — and quite often, as their interest grows, more than one.”
Keane cited an NSSF special industry report that found target shooting participation increased 44 percent between 2009 and 2016 — proof that the sport appeals to a broader and broader demographic as time passes.
“New shooters are younger, are more female and increasingly diverse in ethnicity,” he said. “The shooting sports are affordable, accessible, and more inclusive than ever before and people are taking full advantage. Even if the industry has room to become more welcoming and inclusive, our customer base is changing along with the American population. They are buying firearms and going to the range. All are welcome.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation processed 1.8 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month. Guns.com estimates about 926,000 guns were sold — nearly 57,000 more than May 2016, the busiest on record.
It continues a trend first noticed in March and sustained in April, when estimated sales eclipsed the previous year by 4,400.
While market analysts and the media offer theory after theory — global terrorism, stateside mass shootings, rock bottom prices — for the unanticipated shift upwards in NICS checks, Keane insists none of it is unexpected, at all.
“Make no mistake, these factors do play a role – they are just overemphasized most of the time,” he said. “Reporters rarely take much time to speak with retailers and gun owners about why they own guns or why the industry is seeing growing or steady sales. They like to report on months when sales dip and ignore or downplay months when they rise – unless there is a mainstream media political narrative popular at the time.”