You’ve seen the headlines: Gun sales skyrocket after the election. The title may vary slightly, but ever since the FBI started conducting gun purchase background checks in 1998, nearly every major news outlet ran that story each year a Democrat won the White House. A Democrat has won the presidency three times since Bill Clinton first occupied the Oval Office — and three times the general upward trend of nationwide firearms sales spiked. Democrats may hope to nickel and dime Americans out of the right to bear arms one “reform” at a time, but – as much as they must hate it – the leftward push of the Democratic Party has been a boon for the firearms industry. There’s no denying it: guns and Democrats make for a twisted love story.
If there’s one thing sure to make every faithful adherent of the Second Amendment part with their hard-earned dollars, it’s anti-gun politicians trying to infringe the right that “shall not be infringed.” Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden all promised “common sense” gun reform. Hillary lost; Obama did not. He spent eight years in the White House trying – unsuccessfully – to get progressive gun control passed through Congress so he could sign it into law. As for Bill Clinton, Second Amendment advocates won’t soon forget that he was the father of the infamous Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
Now Joe Biden – who already told America that he plans to ban so-called assault weapons again, this time for good – sits behind the Resolute Desk. Over the years, an obvious and somewhat expected trend has appeared: When Democrats threaten the right to bear arms, We the People panic-buy guns and ammo like there’s no tomorrow.
Using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the FBI has tracked both successful and failed attempts to buy firearms since the end of 1998. When looking at the data, keep in mind that only part of 1998 is recorded and that it’s lumped in with 1999. From there, it’s an easy yet somewhat tedious task to build a table of NICS requests by year and president.
As may be expected, the general trend from 1998/1999 to 2020 is a gradual and almost smooth upward progression. The first full year – 13 months, actually – of the program, just over ten million transactions were attempted, with fewer than 200,000 denied. George W. Bush’s first year in the White House saw a little over 8.5 million. The final figure for his last year in office – which included the November and December after Barack Obama won the 2004 election – was just over 12.7 million. There were about 14 million in 2009, Obama’s first year.
Things get really interesting when you look at average requests to buy a firearm by four-year term. Clinton’s average is a bit of an outlier, as only the last two years of his presidency are represented in the data. Still, it paints a clear picture. There was an average of 9.29 million per year for the end of Clinton’s reign, 8.63 million per year for Bush’s first term, and 10.72 for his second. Then there were 16.12 million per year for Obama’s first term and 23.18 million for his second. Donald Trump’s single-term presidency included a few wildcards, like COVID and months of rioting, as well as the uncertainty of the presidential election. Though the annual totals dropped a couple million in Trump’s first year in office, his average was 29.82 million requests per year. It’s early yet for Team Biden, but in the month of January alone, 4,317,504 background checks were performed. If that monthly average doesn’t decrease, Biden’s looking at around 52 million or so firearm sales.
And the trend thus far appears to be that no matter how hard they fight it, gun sales spike considerably when a Democrat wins the White House – but they don’t drop by nearly as much when Republicans take over. It’s one step forward, two steps back for the Democrats on how many firearms are in the hands of the American people.
Fear and Uncertainty Sells
Obama left office with a nation divided – and Trump, the polarizing figure he is, sure didn’t fix that problem. For more than four years, the progressive left – now much louder, thanks largely to the internet – fought President Trump, his administration, and his supporters tooth and nail. Racial and social tension approached levels not seen since the 60s. When the Coronapocalypse struck, people became even more frightened. Then there were all the “mostly peaceful protests” of the 2020 summer. Now Joe Biden is president, and the Democrats control both houses of Congress. COVID still reigns supreme over America, and – surprise, surprise – the rioting continued on through Biden’s inauguration.
Gun sales have been breaking records monthly, with people on both sides of the aisle realizing they need a way to protect themselves. If there’s one thing to be learned from this wildcard year, it isn’t just the name of a political party that sells guns – it’s fear and uncertainty. They just happen to bring a lot of it into gun control discussion.
Read more from James Fite.