Lately, along with gun control supporters claiming that the number of gun owners is declining, some in the media have been saying that Americans’ gun purchases are declining as well. Last summer, Time.com went so far as to say--and we’re not kidding, here--that guns are one of the 10 Things Americans Have Suddenly Stopped Buying. And this week, a Washington Post headline, Gun sales in Virginia drop in 2014 following 3 years’ growth, suggested that there are fewer gun purchases today than there were three years ago.
The media’s claims about gun purchase trends are based upon the annual numbers of firearm-related background checks conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). NICS statistics are not a perfect measure of gun purchases, but to the extent they illustrate trends in purchases, they show that the rate at which Americans are acquiring firearms is actually increasing.
As the accompanying chart shows, in 2014, the number of firearm-acquisition NICS checks was 45 percent greater than the average number for all preceding years, including 2012 and 2013, during which Americans bought guns at an extraordinarily high rate in response to President Obama’s re-election and subsequent campaign for gun control.
The increase in firearm acquisitions may actually be greater than indicated in the chart, however. Firearm-acquisition check numbers do not include checks conducted for the purpose of acquiring firearm carry permits, the number of which has risen to an all-time high, and which in some states enable their holders to acquire firearms without going through additional NICS checks.
In the future, let’s hope that reporters show enough pride in their work to do a little basic research, so they can get the facts right. They can begin with the following data, posted by the FBI on its NICS website: NICS Firearm Checks: Year, by State/Type, NICS Firearm Checks (National): Month/Year, NICS Firearm Checks: Month/Year, by State, and NICS Firearm Checks: Month/Year, by State/Type. Reporters, save these links!