Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Erin in the Washington Free Beacon

I'm quoted in this article, but what I really want to do is show you the email exchange because there's a lot of good information here that you might not know and could serve you well when discussing firearms, specifically the reported rates of purchase. 

I received the following email:

My name is Stephen Gutowski and I'm a reporter with the Washington Free Beacon. I'm working on a story about gun sales spiking in Pennsylvania, particularly in June. Our analysis shows that, relative to previous years, June's gun sales spike was even larger than March's. Las Dalseide from the NRA gave me your contact information and said you might be able to provide some good insight about what's happening on the ground. 

What have you been seeing? What do you think has lead to the spike in sales?

Have you noticed any increase in activism by new gun owners? Do you think the spike in sales will impact the upcoming elections?

My reply:

First of all, gun sales haven't been spiking just in Pennsylvania; they've been spiking EVERYWHERE. As you can see from this FBI document which tracks NICS queries*, gun sales have been going gangbusters since December 2019, with even larger spikes in March and June. Not coincidentally, March is when we entered lockdown for COVID-19 and police departments in big cities told civilians that their responses to 9-1-1 would be delayed or even nonexistent due to the virus, and June was the first full month of rioting after the death of George Floyd.

 * I don't know how much you know about gun purchases, so please allow me to explain how they work. If you already know, I apologize.
  1. When you go to buy a gun, you fill out ATF Form 4473. This information is then used for the instant background check system (ICS).
  2. ... unless you live in a state which has its own ICS**. In that case, one of two things happens:
    1. If you don't have a concealed carry permit with that state, your background is checked by the state level ICS. This is important because, to my knowledge, this information is not shared with the FBI and is therefore not included in the national metric. 
    2. If you do have a concealed carry permit with the state, you just fill out your form 4473 and take your gun home. This is because a concealed weapon permit is effectively the state saying "We have already checked this person's background exhaustively and there is no reason for them to wait as we do a sloppier version of it with the ICS." This is also why people with carry permits do not need to wait the mandated 3-day "cooling off period" for handgun purchases. 
  3. Also, fun fact: the IC is done per purchase, not per gun. So if someone without a permit bought 3 guns at once, that would still be only one background check. 
  4. So all of this is a very complicated way of explaining "As big as the FBI numbers are, they aren't a complete picture of how many people are buying guns or how many guns are being bought."
** Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. There are also "Partial Point of Contact" states which do checks for handguns but not long guns; those states are Maryland, New Hampshire, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Now on to the rest of your questions!

What have you been seeing? 

Increased demand in both firearms and ammunition. My local gun shop in my rural county is completely sold out of guns. This is a store which used to have display cabinets full of pistols and a wall full of rifles and shotguns, and now they are stripped bare of guns. When I talked to the guy at the counter the other day, he said "We just got in a Glock 40 today. I'm about to put it up on our Facebook page. I expect it'll be gone by the end of the day."  It was about 1pm when I spoke to him.

Ammunition is similarly hard to find. Most handgun ammo is simply GONE, and those which can be found (usually premium self-defense ammo) is selling for outrageous prices -- at least double what it used to cost, maybe more. Rifle ammunition is not as scarce, but it's getting there. About the only thing which isn't hard to find is12 gauge shotgun ammo... but I'd say that's just a matter of time, so stock up now.

What do you think has led to the spike in sales?

Uncertainty about the future, loss of faith in infrastructure elements such as the police, and concern about political and social unrest. Essentially, COVID-19 led to people wondering if the police would be able to respond to crimes, so they bought guns; then the extended lockdown made a lot of people restless and "stir crazy"; then George Floyd died, and outrage combined with cabin fever exploded into social unrest, protests, and rioting; and now with the election looming, a lot of people are wondering what will happen come November 4th.

Have you noticed any increase in activism by new gun owners? 

Sorry, I'm going to need clarification on this. What kind of activism do you mean?

I'm mainly wondering if you've seen evidence of new gun owners beginning to become involved in gun-rights activism. 

Not that I've seen... but give it time. I've long said that gun owners become gun voters, especially when the government decides to take away rightly held property. Given the major civil and political unrest is so significant that both parties are denouncing it, and given that the influx of new gun owner is so large that even Bloomberg's The Trace ran an article on gun safety, I think it's safe to say that both parties know that even mentioning gun control is the political third rail of this campaign. No, I'd say that the true evidence will be during the midterm elections... assuming, of course, that the unrest has settled down by then and we've returned to normal.

Do you think the spike in sales will impact the upcoming elections?

Absolutely. Again, these mass purchases of guns for self-defense indicates an unprecedented level of distrust by the average American of the government's ability to keep them safe. Even the Biden campaign is speaking out against the riots, which tells me that both parties see that the majority of voters want a return to law and order.

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