We’re getting more insight into the year in guns.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry’s trade group, estimates there were 16.4 million gun sales in 2022. That’s a lot, but it’s not as many as in 2021 or 2020.
I explore whether gun owners should be worried about the downturn.
Professor David Blake Johnson, who studies gun distribution at the University of Central Missouri, does his own examination of gun sales trends. This time with new detailed data from Massachusetts. He provides a ton of detail on sales trends and what drives them.
Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman reports which states moved which way on the country’s largest gun-control group’s rankings in 2022 and why. And I look at a new Associated Press poll that provides insight into the how Americans are thinking about gun politics headed into 2023.
Plus, I explain why SCOTUS is on the brink of another showdown with New York.
Gun Sales Top 16.4 Million in 2022
By Stephen Gutowski
Last year saw the third-most background checks on gun sales in the history of the United States.
The FBI ran 16.4 million gun-related checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in 2022, according to an industry analysis. That includes 1,747,506 checks in December alone. But both figures represent a continued retreat from all-time highs set in 2020.
Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which conducted the analysis, said the results show the industry has “there continues to be a strong desire from law-abiding Americans to purchase the firearms of their choice.”
16.4 million guns were sold in 2022.
Additionally, the two publicly-traded American gun companies have experienced corresponding declines in their sales. Ruger’s sales dropped to $139.4 million in its most recent quarter compared to $178.2 million and $145.7 million in the same quarter of the previous two years. Smith & Wesson saw an even more severe decline from $248.7 million between August and October 2020 to $230.5 million in 2021 and just $121.0 Million in 2022.
Ruger’s stock has fallen from a price high of about $87 per share at points in both 2020 and 2021 to $51 today. Smith and Wesson fell from a 2021 high of about $31 to about $9.
There are, of course, larger structural trends at play beyond the control of the gun industry or any other industry. Supply constraints have pushed prices up, and the resulting inflation has squeezed consumers to at least some degree. That’s led to lower demand and, combined with rising interest rates designed to fight that inflation, has put pressure on every company.
Lower demand has led to lower earnings and resulted in a general market downturn that has hit every sector.
Still, there are reasons to think the downturn may hit the gun industry particularly hard.
Analysis: What Massachusetts Gun Sales Data Tells Us About How and Why Americans Buy Guns
By David Blake Johnson
Since the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and the proposed “assault weapons” ban passed by the US House of Representatives earlier this year, gun researchers have noted a substantial increase in gun sales.
While not particularly well-known outside of the gun community, this phenomenon (what economists would call a “demand shock”) is common. These shocks are not limited to national tragedies and are observed during other significant events (e.g., legislation and political campaigns).
There is a problem with identifying these shocks stemming from the lack of detailed data regarding changes in gun prevalence. While the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) publishes National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) counts that provide insight into sales by state, month, and type, the public information is only available at the state and national levels. It is also less than ideal when it comes to firearm type, differentiating only by handgun and long gun. Stated differently, the best information this data can provide is the number of background checks for a specific gun type (e.g., handgun) conducted in a given state in a given month of a specific year.
For a more detailed look at the short-run fluctuations of gun sales, we turn instead to firearm transaction-level data from Massachusetts. This data was originally obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request sent in the Summer of 2022. Shortly thereafter, the data was made public–coming from the Massachusetts electronic license check system.
New Jersey, Oregon, Delaware See Boost in Gun-Control Group Rankings
By Jake Fogleman
The gulf between red and blue states and their approach to gun laws grew wider in 2022.
That’s according to a new report from the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety. In its latest “Gun Law Rankings” report for 2023, the group noted that blue states New Jersey, Oregon, and Delaware climbed the rankings of states with the strictest gun laws. Meanwhile, red states Ohio, Georgia, Alabama, and Indiana all dropped in the rankings, primarily due to passing permitless gun carry the prior year.
The rankings show how the country’s single largest gun-control organization views policy successes and failures. Everytown compiled its rankings based on a state-by-state evaluation of 50 different select policies weighted by a mix of subjective and objective criteria. The highest weighted policies, those the group refers to as “foundational,” include gun-related measures such as universal background check or permit-to-purchase requirements, red flag laws, “Stand Your Ground” laws, and various gun-carry regulations.
AP Poll: Americans View Guns as Low Priority Headed into 2023
By Stephen Gutowski
The public is now less interested in Congress working on guns than it was last year.
Americans’ desire for new government action on guns has dropped five points since December 2021 and 11 points since June 2022, according to a new Associated Press (AP) poll released on Sunday. Guns have fallen from the second-most important issue in June 2022 into a tie for fifth-most important issue by December 2022. Nineteen percent of Americans said they want the government to work on gun issues in the coming year, behind the economy, inflation, immigration, and climate change.
Only Democrats listed guns in the top five of their priorities list for 2023. Republicans and Independents did not name the issue as one of their top priorities. And the gun issue has faded for many Democrats, with a 15-point drop in concern between June and December.
The Supreme Court and New York are on an accelerating collision course.
Ever since the Court struck down the state’s “may-issue” gun-carry permitting law, which allowed officials to subjectively deny applicants in a way that violates the Second Amendment, lawmakers seem to have been pining for a rematch. After New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen was handed down, they went straight to crafting a new batch of gun-carry restrictions. Those included a bevy of novel bans that seem almost purposefully designed to defy the Court’s decree.
“With this action, New York has sent a message to the rest of the country that we will not stand idly by and let the Supreme Court reverse years of sensible gun regulations,” Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado (D.) said in a statement after the bill’s passage.
While the state did not try to revive the invalidated standard for issuing permits that left it up to officials to decide whether an applicant had “proper cause” to carry a gun, nearly always finding they didn’t, it doubled down on a similar standard that leaves it up to officials to decide whether an applicant has a “good moral character.” New York also ignored the Court’s rejection of its argument that it could restrict gun carry in a myriad of “sensitive places” and instead added provisions that make it impossible to carry in most publicly-accessible areas. It also added new training requirements that go beyond what all other states have instituted to this point.
Now New York lawmakers may be getting the showdown they wished for. On Tuesday, Justice Sonya Sotomayor ordered the state to respond to an emergency motion by Gun Owners of America to rescind the stay issued by the Second Circuit on a lower court’s ruling in Antonyuk v. Nigrelli that blocked the law. The state has until January 3rd, 2023, to respond.
Outside The Reload
That’s it for this week in guns.
I’ll see you all next week.