Gun-buy­ing spree wanes af­ter post-New­town high

Back­ground checks hit all-time high of 2.8 mil­lion year ago

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Fed­eral gun-pur­chase back­ground checks ticked up in Oc­to­ber, but an­a­lysts say the surge in ap­pli­ca­tions to buy guns, which peaked in the months af­ter the New­town school shoot­ings in Con­necti­cut, likely has lev­eled off.

Af­ter hit­ting an all-time high of 2.8 mil­lion in De­cem­ber 2012, checks run through the FBI’s Na­tional In­stant Crim­i­nal Back­ground Check Sys­tem re­mained high through May when com­pared to pre­vi­ous year tal­lies. Sales then dropped for the next four months, though Oc­to­ber saw a slight in­crease com­pared to Oc­to­ber 2012, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est num­bers.

“I know there was a pe­riod af­ter New­town when you couldn’t go into a Wal-Mart and not be able to find an AR-15 vari­ant,” said David Chip­man, a for­mer agent with the Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives. “Peo­ple are op­por­tunis­tic buy­ers — they bought them be­cause they thought they were go­ing to be banned.”

The fed­eral back­ground checks are not a one-to-one cor­re­la­tion to gun sales; for ex­am­ple, some of the checks are per­formed on ac­tive con­cealed carry per­mits, among other non­sale ac­tions. But de­spite such im­per­fec­tions, the num­ber of checks per­formed is widely con­sid­ered a fairly good proxy for the num­ber of guns sold.

The Na­tional Shoot­ing Sports Foun­da­tion, the trade group for the guns and am­mu­ni­tion in­dus­try, keeps its own ad­justed tally ev­ery month to ac­count for such checks that don’t trans­late di­rectly into sales.

Its data showed 38 straight months of year-over-year in­creases through July 2013, be­fore a drop in Au­gust for the first time since May 2010. By the as­so­ci­a­tion’s met­ric, checks in­creased in Septem­ber but dipped back down in Oc­to­ber.

It’s not just that de­mand for guns may fi­nally be plateau­ing. New laws may also be bit­ing.

While Pres­i­dent Obama’s am­bi­tious plans to ban sales of some firearms and high-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines failed, many states, in­clud­ing Con­necti­cut, New York, and Mary­land, did man­age to ap­prove re­stric­tions.

Mary­land’s new law, which took ef­fect Oct. 1, adds 45 guns to a list of banned weapons and re­quires new hand­gun own­ers to ob­tain a qual­i­fy­ing li­cense — a process that in­cludes four hours of train­ing taught by a cer­ti­fied in­struc­tor and time spent at a fir­ing range.

Vince Sauls­bury of Duffy’s Gun Room in Sparks, Md., said that as a re­sult, his typ­i­cal vol­ume of sev­eral hun­dred hand­gun sales per month plum­meted to three in Oc­to­ber.

He also said there is typ­i­cally a bit of a lull be­fore hunt­ing sea­son starts af­ter Thanks­giv­ing and the hol­i­day buy­ing sea­son revs up.

“It’s about as busy as it is most years,” he said, though he also added that the new state law banned “all of our breadand-but­ter ri­fles.”

John Hu­dak, a fel­low in gov­er­nance stud­ies at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, pointed out that the uptick in back­ground checks and gun sales pre­dates New­town, but the in­crease did jump dra­mat­i­cally around the time of the shoot­ing, when gun­man Adam Lanza killed his mother and then mur­dered 20 chil­dren and six adults at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School be­fore tak­ing his own life.

“There was a pretty no­tice­able New­town ef­fect,” Mr. Hu­dak said, adding that the fig­ures for the com­ing months will be in­ter­est­ing and could pro­vide a bet­ter win­dow into any dis­cernible trend.

“Those, I’m cer­tain, will be dra­mat­i­cally lower than their com­par­isons from the year be­fore,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“Peo­ple are op­por­tunis­tic buy­ers — they bought [

be­cause they thought they were go­ing to be banned,” says David Chip­man, a for­mer ATF agent.

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