Gun sales expected to climb this holiday season amid political pressure

Firearm sales are expected to climb this holiday season, and potentially beyond that, amid public and political pressure for stricter gun control laws, analysts and experts told FOX Business.

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Roughly 1.2 million firearms were sold nationwide in October 2019, a 10.8 percent increase from October 2018, according to arms and ammo analytics research consultancy Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting. September’s sales were estimated to be around 1.1 million, an increase of nearly 11 percent from the same period a year ago.

The seasonal increase has been "holding true" for the past 20 years, said Jurgen Brauer, Small Arms Analytics' chief economist. That said, the industry could begin to see a slight increase in sales over time as the 2020 presidential election approaches.

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A hunter fires during a sighting in and test-firing of shotguns and rifles in a safe environment for the upcoming deer hunting season at the Illinois State Police firing range in Joliet, Illinois, November 12, 2011.

"The fall season – hunting, Thanksgiving and Christmas – is traditionally, by far, the high-selling season of the industry. So, we certainly expect the unit sales, even though they’re estimated, will increase relative to the earlier months of the year," Brauer told FOX Business. “Of course, these Democratic candidates hashing it out amongst themselves, there is a bit of talk in the industry and among firearms owners for what this may augur for next year or thereafter, but I don’t think that will be the overwhelming contribution to increase sales this season.”

Data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) shows the agency performed 2.4 million background checks for potential gun purchasers in October 2019 – the highest number of checks recorded by the agency for that month. The second-highest recorded year for October’s background checks was 2016, when 2.3 million checks were conducted.

USA Today reported Monday that the agency is experiencing an uptick in background checks, which the outlet attributed to the political climate.

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Though the agency’s data includes permit checks and re-checks and is, therefore, higher than the number of actual gun sales, the data is often indicative of trends in sales in the gun industry.

The FBI performed a record number of gun background checks in 2016, with 27.5 million, the numbers show. Similarly, Small Arms Analytics data reported record firearm sales for the year, with more than 17 million guns sold. But Brauer said he doesn't expect 2019's yearly numbers to surpass those from 2016.

“We expect higher seasonal sales but nothing of the kind we have seen in 2016," he said, adding that he expects a more drastic increase next year and as the election nears.

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A sales associate shows a potential customer guns at a gun shop in California. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

More than 1,200 people have died as a result of mass shootings nationwide over the past 50 years, according to research conducted by The Violence Project. In the past five years, there have been at least 33 mass shootings – those in which four or more people were killed, not including the shooter, according to the Congressional Research Service. Democratic presidential contenders have since come out strong against certain kinds of firearms, or in favor of stronger gun control practices, and some retail chains, including Dick's Sporting Goods, have since opted not to sell them.

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Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation emphasized that purchasers could be more inclined to buy the firearms they've had their eyes on before the 2020 election, which could make doing so harder.

“We’re seeing a lot of talk about people, presidential candidates or state governments wanting to severely restrict rights … Some have called for outright confiscation of guns and firearms,” Oliva told FOX Business. “People are seeing that their rights are under attack … They start to make sure that they can buy the firearms that they want while they still can."

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Oliva said he wouldn’t be surprised if 2019 was another record gun-buying year, especially as some of the highest past numbers were around the time of, or shortly after, the presidential election of 2016, when some felt threatened by the possibility that a Democratic candidate, such as Hillary Clinton, might be president.

The highest number of background checks ever recorded by the FBI’s database was on Black Friday 2017, followed by the Black Fridays of 2016, then 2015, agency records show.

“We’ve had a fairly strong year for firearms sales, he said. “[In] 2015, 2016 firearm sales went through the roof. It wouldn’t surprise me if we start to approach … that again if we continue to hear the rhetoric that we’re hearing.”