Unlike after many other mass shootings, gun control has stayed in the news thanks to the student survivors of the Parkland, Florida, shooting and their continued activism. And yet this talk of gun control has not affected how many guns have been sold in 2018 the same way it has in the past, when Barack Obama was president. In the past, gun sales soared after mass shootings, but in 2018, the number seems to be up only slightly.
There is no data available on the exact number of sales, but to get an idea of how many guns are sold, it is possible to look at the background checks the FBI performs to see if a buyer is eligible — even though some of these people are not approved to buy. It is important to note, also, that 40 percent of gun sales are not subject to background checks. Thus, the number of guns sold so far this year is must likely actually higher. But to compare to past years, this is the best way.
The data is currently updated with information up until March 31. In total, there have been 7,043,975 background checks performed thus far in 2018, with the largest number being in March, when there were 2,753,881. This is an increase of 5.5 percent year over year. In 2017, there were 6,679,251 background checks performed in the first three months of the year. Interestingly, it seems the increase stems mostly from the month of March.
That could potentially point to the Parkland survivors' activism playing a role in the increase. In March 2017, some 2,422,749 background checks using the nationwide National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS system) were performed. In 2018, an additional 331,132 guns were sold in the month of March, nearly enough to explain the difference year over year.
Remarkably, in all three months of this year, Kentucky saw the highest number of background checks, reaching 400,000 all three months.
There have been several actions so far this year related to gun control. The March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and around the country were the biggest by far, but there have been others, too, such as the walkout organized in March.
The National School Walkout, another protest organized for April 20, has planned more than 2,100 walkouts with at least one in every state. The organization has a three-part goal. One is to engage students in the political process so that they can better advocate for issues that affect them, like gun control. Another is to hold elected officials accountable, and the third is to generally promote gun control and other steps that can be taken to prevent gun violence.
The National School Walkout explains the purpose of the protest on its website:
We’re protesting congressional, state, and local failures to take action to prevent gun violence. America is the only country in the world where so many people are killed by guns, and yet our leaders do nothing about it. In many states it’s more difficult to register to vote than it is to buy a rifle. Apparently to some politicians, a vote is scarier than a gun.
At the beginning of March, the sales reported by some gun manufacturers, seemed to be way down. American Outdoor Brands Corp, which makes Smith & Wesson guns, said that their sales were reaching new, historic lows following Trump's election. The reason is basically that few people fear gun control when Trump is president, Bloomberg reported, unlike during the Obama years when the president actively pushed for change. American Outdoor Brands Corp saw a 32.6 percent drop in net sales, while rival Remington filed for bankruptcy in February.
Gun sales may not be rising much, but they may rise further if the Parkland students continue to keep the momentum going.