The increase is part of a trend. Sales of guns in the United States rose 40% last year to 39,695,315. That represents the high-water mark in annual gun sales since the current record-keeping system went into effect. Increases by state in June and for the first six months varied substantially, as has been the case for years.
The American Gun Culture
From the founding of America’s guns have been a part of the “American Persona” Gun ownership facilitated our independence from Britain and through every war in our history. Our gun-owning roots allowed for quick conscription in times of national crisis with marksmanship for superior to that of our advisories. Our second amendment allows for every American to own a gun and some feel that the government could at some point be a threat and the average citizen will rise up to assist in resetting our democratic republic. However, you feel and regardless of what side of the debate you are on gun ownership is the right of the people and it’s not going anywhere soon.
The Increase in Gun Sales
A study presented in 2019 shows that Americans feel buying a gun is a way of asserting and maintaining independence. Independence is threatened during the pandemic, when a concern for public health may curtail some individual freedoms, including the freedom to travel, operate some businesses, assemble in large groups, or visit the elderly. Gun ownership can be motivated by the belief that having guns helps to ensure freedom to do and live as one chooses, particularly for individuals concerned with protection and defense. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that 40% of recent gun buyers are doing so for the first time, partly driven by citizens’ perceived need to protect themselves in a period of uncertainty and civil unrest, as well as calls to defund the police. This idea is supported by data showing that more than 99% of recent sales are handguns, which are typically used for self-defense, and by research showing that buying a gun for self-defense can be motivated by feelings that the world is generally dangerous. Gun owners also find comfort and security in routines. This means existing gun owners may purchase additional guns to maintain a sense of normalcy.
What Does the 40% Increase Mean for You?
It’s hard to say what the increase means for the average person, but it certainly does not mean an end to the frenzy that has gripped gun buyers since the election of President Trump and beyond. (See: “The Trump Effect Is Making More Gun Purchases, Not Less.”) Indeed, the most important group affected by the firearm industry’s sales patterns is not the typical gun owner but the left-leaning politically. Whether a person buys a gun because they are afraid of the increase in criminal activity or if they are just exercising their second amendment rights. But in the near future, it will cause minor shortages and delays for some weapons and mainly ammunition.
Why Has Gun Sales Increased?
Ownership of guns is on the rise and has been for several years. The number of Americans who said they had a gun in the home increased to 57% in 2016, up from 45% in 2007 and 41% in 2001, according to a 2016 Pew Research survey. At the same time, a small but growing minority of Americans say that access to guns in the home makes them feel safer, according to the survey. Other research points to a “gung ho” attitude by many gun owners, who believe their rights are under attack from the government. They feel that the second amendment is a potential target for congress and the President. As President Biden recently said no amendment is absolute.
What’s Next for the Gun Industry?
After the Parkland shootings, Smith & Wesson’s (NASDAQ:SWHC) stock price fell sharply. Although investors didn’t anticipate a long-term decline, shares fell on the assumption that all gun sales were going to drop. With more background checks, it seems unlikely that demand will drop off so significantly in the coming months. The need for guns will continue, of course. Gun sales could fall if the United States were to ban semi-automatic firearms, but right now, such laws aren’t on the horizon. Moreover, gun makers may be underestimating the demand for more technologically advanced guns that are easier for women to use. With so many guns already in existence, it may take several more years for gun makers to use up the inventory of supplies needed for those weapons. The future of the gun industry is in question with the current politics but it is unlikely that purchases of weapons will decline unless there are some new restrictions enacted by the Democrat-controlled house and senate.
The election of Joe Biden and Majority Democrats to Congress is a bullish development for gun sales, but a new year provides certainty to increased gun sales. President Biden has spoken of closing gun-show loopholes (do they even exist?) and “red-flag” laws that allow family members and law enforcement to ask judges to issue temporary gun confiscation from those with mental issues or have expressed violent threats. Any policy in this area, however, would only represent one potential change in a relatively left-leaning government with an established pro-gun control group in Congress.