Estimated gun sales last month defied expectations when background checks came in higher than any other May in the federal system’s 19-year history.
This time, however, it wasn’t anything stateside driving increased demand, but rather terrorist attacks in the UK and beyond stirring up old fears, according to industry experts.
Larry Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told the Washington Times the May 22 Manchester suicide bombing and the London Bridge attack over the weekend could translate into more gun sales nationally.
“It was more pronounced after, for example, San Bernardino and Orlando,” he said Monday. “But we saw increases after the attack in Paris, so that can be a factor. It’s more pronounced when something occurs domestically.”
Retailers processed just under 1.9 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month. Checks amounted to about 927,000 estimated gun transfers, with more than 512,000 handguns and nearly 316,000 long guns flying off the shelves.
It’s a 6 percent increase over last year, the biggest on record for background checks and, by proxy, gun sales.
The numbers blasted a hole in the enduring ‘Trump slump’ narrative circulating among news outlets since the president’s November win quelled fears of impending gun control for the next four years.
Industry insiders, including the NSSF and the National Rifle Association, wrote off the doom and gloom as overblown, insisting the market would hold steady as gun owners continue growing more diverse.
“As we’ve always said, those spikes in demand that are driven by political concerns last for a period of time, but eventually they subside and you return to a more normalized market, and that’s what’s occurred,” Keane told the Washington Times.
It’s a sentiment echoed by retailing giants, including Vista Outdoors CEO Mark DeYoung, who called fourth quarter 2016 and first quarter 2017 sluggishness in gun sales “temporary.”
“I don’t have any real concerns about the long-term health or strength in outdoor recreation or shooting sports,” he said during a May 8 conference call with investors. “I think we are going to see that return.”
“Despite the recent softening in consumer firearm activity … we maintain a very favorable long-term perspective on the firearms market,” American Outdoor Brands CEO Jeff Debney said during a March earnings call with investors. “Overall our belief in firearms is very much about the long-term, as we’ve said before. We’re very confident about that.”