Gun checks hit record after slump with Trump

Deal­ers see spillover from ter­ror­ist at­tacks

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Gun pur­chase back­ground checks soared to a record for the month of May, snap­ping a five-month streak of year-over-year de­clines since Pres­i­dent Trump was elected, and sug­gest­ing the de­mand for guns is once again pick­ing up amid world tu­mult.

More than 1.9 mil­lion checks were run through the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s data­base in May, which is an in­crease of about 70,000 from the pre­vi­ous May.

The num­bers helped to dis­pel wor­ries about a post-Obama “Trump slump” in gun sales, with the Na­tional Shoot­ing Sports Foun­da­tion, an in­dus­try group, say­ing their own cal­cu­la­tions of data from the Na­tional In­stant Crim­i­nal Back­ground Check Sys­tem sug­gest a healthy mar­ket.

“We did see a de­cline in the ad­justed NICS num­bers after the elec­tion,” said Lawrence G. Keane, se­nior vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral coun­sel for the NSSF. “As we’ve al­ways said, those spikes in de­mand that are driven by po­lit­i­cal con­cerns last for a pe­riod of time, but even­tu­ally they sub­side and you re­turn to a more nor­mal­ized mar­ket, and

that’s what’s oc­curred.”

May also saw a sig­nif­i­cant amount of chaos over­seas, including the deadly ter­ror­ist at­tack in Manch­ester, Eng­land. On May 22 at­tacker Sal­man Abedi killed 22 peo­ple and in­jured scores of oth­ers in a sui­cide bomb­ing at­tack out­side an Ari­ana Grande con­cert in the Bri­tish city — an at­tack for which the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group later claimed credit.

Such at­tacks can have a spillover ef­fect on the gun mar­ket, Mr. Keane said.

“It was more pro­nounced after, for ex­am­ple, San Bernardino and Or­lando,” he said. “But we saw in­creases after the at­tack in Paris, so that can be a fac­tor. It’s more pro­nounced when some­thing oc­curs do­mes­ti­cally.”

It shouldn’t be a sur­prise that gun sales are still sky­rock­et­ing, said Erich Pratt, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Gun Own­ers of Amer­ica, who also drew a connection to the re­cent at­tacks.

“And each ter­ror at­tack re­minds Amer­i­cans once again that they them­selves are the ones who are ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for their safety,” he said.

In­di­ca­tors had sug­gested a slide in in­ter­est in gun pur­chases in the wake of last year’s elec­tion. After 19 straight months of in­creases over the pre­vi­ous year’s fig­ures, the num­ber of back­ground checks be­ing per­formed — a rough ap­prox­i­ma­tion for sales — slid in De­cem­ber, and that con­tin­ued through the first few months of this year.

But May saw a total of 1,942,677 NICS checks, up from the then-record of 1,870,000 in 2016.

Gun con­trol ad­vo­cates, how­ever, ap­peared more con­cerned after Mr. Trump brought guns into the de­bate fol­low­ing the deadly Lon­don ter­ror­ist at­tack over the week­end, when seven were killed and dozens wounded.

“Do you no­tice we are not hav­ing a gun de­bate right now? That’s be­cause they used knives and a truck!” the pres­i­dent tweeted early Sun­day morn­ing of the at­tack­ers.

Gun con­trol ad­vo­cates were out­raged.

“We need a na­tional de­bate on gun vi­o­lence in this coun­try. But more than that, we need change,” former Rep. Gabby Gif­fords, whose 2011 shoot­ing at an out­door town hall helped reignite the gun de­bate, said in a fundrais­ing let­ter Mon­day re­spond­ing to Mr. Trump’s tweets.

Other ad­vo­cates said the pres­i­dent missed the point, say­ing that with ac­cess to guns, the Lon­don ter­ror­ists could have done much worse dam­age.

“Pres­i­dent Trump fun­da­men­tally mis­un­der­stands that, un­like Amer­ica, other coun­tries make it much harder for peo­ple with dan­ger­ous in­ten­tions to get their hands on guns. Oth­er­wise the death toll could have been much larger,” said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokes­woman for the gun con­trol group Every­town for Gun Safety.

Crit­ics also said Mr. Trump’s broader re­sponse, which in­cluded go­ing after Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan’s state­ment that there was no rea­son for city res­i­dents to be alarmed, only served to ex­ac­er­bate pub­lic fears about more ter­ror­ist at­tacks that could play a role in gun sales go­ing for­ward.

A spokesman said Mr. Khan was say­ing only that peo­ple shouldn’t be alarmed if they saw an in­creased po­lice pres­ence on the streets, but Mr. Trump later slammed what he called the “pa­thetic ex­cuse.”

White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders on Mon­day said the pres­i­dent was not pick­ing a fight with Mr. Khan, and that he was try­ing to make a broader point about se­cu­rity and safety.

“I think that the point is, is there is a rea­son to be alarmed?” she said. “We have con­stant at­tacks go­ing on not just there but across the globe, and we have to start putting na­tional se­cu­rity and global se­cu­rity at an all-time high.”

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