If you like watching the major threads around the gun debate in America, this week provided a lot of new developments. A new report shows policies in Philadelphia restricted residents from getting gun-carry licenses, an issue that has already created problems for the city in court. The report drops while gun sales continue their record pace, a fact that might have something to do with President Joe Biden’s gun agenda getting hammered in the polls.
In addition, I had in-depth conversations on guns in America with major outlets from either side of the ideological spectrum. Down in the links section, we also have news about one state doing a gun giveaway as a vaccine incentive, plus two differing perspectives on gun ownership both published in a major mainstream newspaper. And court records show the NRA’s books have been balanced but mainly through heavy cuts to the group’s expenditures.
Let’s dive in.
Pennsylvania experienced an explosion in gun-carry licenses in 2020—except in Philadelphia, where residents were plagued by shutdowns and roadblocks thrown up by local authorities.
While 62,737 more gun-carry licenses were issued in the state during 2020 than during 2019, an increase of 25 percent, Philadelphia saw a 19 percent decrease. The city, which houses about 12.3 percent of the state’s population, issued just 2.3 percent of gun-carry licenses in the state. Philadelphia has the largest population in the state, but 11 other counties issued more gun-carry licenses in 2020. Philadelphia was among just 7 localities to see a decrease, compared to 60 that saw an increase, according to a recently released report from the Pennsylvania State Police.
Only Lackawanna, Potter, and Delaware counties saw a bigger percentage drop in the number of permits issued in 2020, with Lackawanna posting a 34 percent decline. Philadelphia saw the largest raw-number decline by issuing 1,795 fewer licenses in 2020 than in 2019. The Philadelphia Police Department and the sheriff’s departments in the three other counties did not respond to requests for comment.
The drop in licenses issued by Philadelphia came even as gun sales in the city jumped by more than 158 percent to 31,368. That far outpaces the 54 percent increase experienced by the rest of the state.
Most Americans believe President Joe Biden needs to adjust his aim on gun policy.
A pair of polls that dropped last week show only about a third of the public approve of Biden’s handling of guns. Quinnipiac University found 34 percent of respondents approved of Biden’s gun policies while 49 percent disapproved. The Economist and YouGov found 34 percent approved while 47 percent disapproved. Further, the Economist and YouGov poll indicates a plurality of Americans strongly disapprove of Biden’s performance. Those strongly approving of Biden’s gun policies were the smallest group in the survey.
Biden’s approval on guns was about 14 points lower in these two polls than it was when the Associated Press and the University of Chicago asked the question at the beginning of May.
The opposition to Biden’s handling of guns may further hinder the effort by the president and his fellow Democrats to pass stricter gun laws. If moderate senators are scared off by the low approval, it could ultimately derail the confirmation of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Key senators are still weighing whether to approve Biden’s nomination of Chipman after a contentious confirmation hearing in late May.
The latest polling is bad news for President Joe Biden’s hopes to install strict new gun regulations, and it may even derail one of his key nominees.
While Biden and his allies in the gun-control movement have argued it is urgent the country put more restrictions on gun ownership, Americans have consistently told pollsters at the Economist and YouGov they don’t find guns to be among the most important issues facing the country. Throughout Biden’s tenure as president, only about 5 percent of Americans have identified guns as their most important issue, putting it near the bottom of all the issues polled—below issues such as health care, jobs, and taxes. In fact, gun control was the issue Americans were least likely to identify as the most important until the poll added more issues to the question in early February.
While guns may not be at the top of most Americans’ minds, when they do look at President Biden’s positions, they don’t like what they see. Recent polling shows Biden’s approach to guns is less popular than nearly every other policy stance he has. So, Americans aren’t convinced the issue needs urgent action, and they don’t like the action they’ve seen from the president so far.
That imperils Biden’s entire gun-control agenda.
Americans continued to flood into gun shops nationwide in May 2021.
The month saw the second most sales of any May ever at more than 1.3 million, according to an industry analysis of FBI background check numbers released on Wednesday. The flood of new gun purchases puts May 2021 far ahead of any other May on record besides May 2020. The strong sales numbers mean 2021 is still on pace to break the all-time record for gun sales set just last year.
“Over 8.5 million background checks for the sale of a firearm have been completed this year. That figure outpaces 2020’s totals at the same point, which topped 8.1 million,” Mark Oliva, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) which conducted the analysis, told The Reload.
Outside The Reload
The Reload in the Media
I had a long conversation about guns in America on The Dispatch Podcast last Friday where we talked about Hollywood misconceptions, the NRA, and changing gun culture. I really enjoyed chatting with Steve Hayes and Sarah Isgur, so the hour really just flew by.
I also spoke with Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the two factors that will indicate where the gun debate is headed on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. We talked for about 30 minutes, but it got cut down to about 5 minutes. That’s alright, though, because they actually picked the 5 best minutes.
That’s it for this week in guns.
I’ll see you all next week.