Americans may be tightening their belts in this economy but not when it comes to ammo. Guns and ammo sales have spiked recently, driven in part by fears of new gun control legislation. According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), firearms background checks have topped two million per month for the past five months in a row, with 2.21 million in March alone, an increase from 1.73 million over March 2012. In the first three months post-Newtown, many states recorded huge increases in background checks over the same period a year earlier. In Texas there was a 55% increase, while Illinois and Pennsylvania each recorded a 46% increase over that same period. These figures are only a rough approximation of gun sales as national statistics don't exist (the gun lobby has seen to that). Background checks are only required for purchases from retailers, approximately 60% of all gun sales, not for purchases at gun shows or from private individuals, so they underestimate true gun sales.
What's driving the surge in gun sales? While gun safety advocates despair of getting meaningful reforms through Congress, in a parallel universe, many Americans see such reforms, or even discussion of them, as the beginning of the end of the Second Amendment. So they are stockpiling guns and ammunition. Much of the current spike is being driven by President Obama's calls for new federal gun control legislation in the wake of the Newtown massacre, but gun runs are also occurring in response to impending gun control measures passed at the state level. In Albany, New York, Dick’s Sporting Goods has had to set up a rope line for gun purchases. Hours before Connecticut’s new gun law took effect, hundreds of consumers ran to Hoffman’s Gun Center in Newington. Sales of assault-rifles such as the AR-15, which was used at Newtown, have also spiked. Also, anecdotal evidence of ammunition shortages abounds. The largest national firearms retailer, Walmart, is limiting ammo purchases to three boxes per customer a day.
Newtown doesn't tell the whole story. Although President Obama generally shied away from gun control before Newtown, and gun restrictions have actually eased under his first term, gun enthusiasts have always perceived him as harboring a secret hostility toward guns. This explains why guns sales, as represented by the number of background checks, during the first term of his administration almost matched those that took place during all eight years of the Bush administration. But seems to have set off a frenzy. Instead of sales leveling off in January, the end of the holiday season, they have continued to rise. It appears that President Obama’s public call for new gun safety legislation has finally confirmed what gun enthusiasts has suspected about him all along: he is hostile to their way of life and a secret enemy of the Second Amendment.