AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Election Year Having Interesting Non-Effect on Gun Sales

2024 is an election year. In a matter of months, we’ll go to the polls and vote for who will be president. A lot of people aren’t real confident that our votes will count, but we’ll do it anyway.

We’ve seen a great deal of violence in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, and while that has seemingly settled down to some degree, the outcome of the election may potentially spark more of it, particularly political violence.

A lot of people are quite sure that war is upon us, after all.

And that usually translates to increased gun sales for obvious reasons.

Yet over at The Reload, Jake Fogleman notes that there’s a bit of a paradox going on.

Americans bought fewer guns last month than any other May in the last five years, continuing a downward trend that began in January.
A new industry analysis of May 2024 FBI background check numbers found that 1,089,117 were related to gun sales. That’s down 7.2 percent from the previous May, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). It’s also the month’s lowest adjusted background check total since May 2019.
The drop in monthly gun-related background checks marks a continuation of the firearms market’s slide over the first half of 2024. Similar analyses of adjusted background check data for March and April also revealed year-over-year declines. Meanwhile, gun checks appear to have declined month-over-month since March as well, with May posting nearly 400,000 fewer adjusted checks.
The sustained decline well into 2024 is unexpected in light of the upcoming presidential election in November. Gun sales have traditionally increased in election years, particularly in those featuring presidential races. The options before voters this fall also reflect the chasm that has opened up between the two major parties in their approach to gun policy. Former President Donald Trump is looking to unseat President Joe Biden, boasting another NRA endorsement and a pledge to protect gun owners from new restrictions despite recently losing his own gun rights. Biden, meanwhile, has used executive actions to advance gun restrictions throughout his tenure in office and continues to campaign on banning popular firearms like the AR-15.

Of course, as Fogleman notes, the NICS checks aren’t a perfect tool for tracking gun sales. It’s just that there is no perfect tool for tracking them.

And my own speculation is that while NICS checks dropped, people obtaining firearms lawfully didn’t.

The truth of the matter is that most gun owners figure they have little to fear from a second Trump presidency but a great deal to fear from another round of Biden. Yet the issue is that the ATF has been weaponized to an insane degree and there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue to some degree or another.

As a result, people are still arming themselves, they’re just doing it via homemade guns or through private transactions instead of going to the local gun store to buy a firearm.

None of that would show up on the NICS checks.

Plus, frankly, a lot of people bought guns during the pandemic that they might not have bought otherwise. That means they’re not going to swoop out and buy more now, though at least some will.

Of course, that assumes anyone really thinks Biden will win.

The polling currently suggests he won’t and there are indicators that POTATUS is on his way out the door, whether he knows it or not. While plenty of us figure the left will get violent–and plenty on that side of the fence figure the right will–a lot of people aren’t thinking about that either way.

So, they don’t feel the pull to buy guns now because they might not be able to buy them later, which often drives gun sales.

Then again, things might well pick up as we get closer to November.

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