The number of firearm background checks conducted in August surged 15% over both the previous month and the previous year, meaning Americans are suddenly buying more guns, just as members of the 2020 Democratic field are proposing strict crackdowns on weapons purchases, and even "gun buyback" confiscation programs.
The Washington Examiner reports that "background checks done for security, concealed carry permits, and gun sales" soared over the summer, making August the best month for gun sales since the National Shooting Sports Foundation began keeping track of how many individuals apply for a federal background check — and thus try to purchase a firearm — per month.
The NSSF does caution that it's likely not every background check resulted in a gun sale; the background check system exists for a reason, and it does turn down some potential buyers. Individuals interested in purchasing a firearm can also complete a background check but may not ultimately buy a weapon.
"NSSF said that the FBI told it that the overall NICS number for August was 2,341,363," according to the Examiner. "That is 310,702 higher than July and 268,067 higher than August 2018. The FBI hasn’t posted the number yet on its NICS page."
The surge, WashEx says, comes on the heels of increased pressure from Congress to stiffen the country's gun laws. Democratic Congressional leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced last week that they plan on introducing a bill in both Houses to expand federal background checks and create a universal gun registry system that would keep track of Americans owning and purchasing firearms.
Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination have gone even further, proposing everything from a ban on so-called "assault rifles" (it's not immediately clear what that would include), and "military-style" guns (also not specific), universal gun registries, registries for Americans treated for mental illness, and even gun "buyback" programs that reward gun owners who turn in their weapons, ostensibly ahead of a nationwide confiscation.
Republicans, of course, aren't immune from the temptation to broaden gun regulations, particularly in the wake of a spate of mass shootings that took place over the summer. Even the White House, which has regularly demurred on the top of gun control, briefly considered a "red flag" system that would empower law enforcement to investigate individuals who they deem unfit to own a firearm, and would allow family members of a gun owner to petition for a temporary removal of that person's firearms pending an assessment.
Some states where hunting and gun ownership is popular saw huge spikes. Alabama, where gun ownership is common, and Minnesota, where hunting is a state pastime, both saw increases over 50% as Democrats ramped up their anti-gun rhetoric.
A similar surge happened, according to NSSF, back in 2016, just before the presidential election. Fearing that a Hillary Clinton victory might mean more stringent gun control measures, Americans purchased firearms at a record pace. Weapons sales dropped off when President Donald Trump took office in January.
But with uncertainty about who will control the White House after 2020, Americans are clearly hedging their bets. NSSF reports that first-time gun buyers are among those who made the August surge happen.