Boom for guns likely to trig­ger rush on ammo

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Gun records checks, fu­eled by a postNew­town boom of gun sales, hit a new high in 2013, and in­dus­try an­a­lysts ex­pect am­mu­ni­tion to be the big seller this year as con­sumers catch up to all of those firearms pur­chases.

More than 21 mil­lion ap­pli­ca­tions were run through the Na­tional In­stant Crim­i­nal Back­ground Check Sys­tem last year, mark­ing nearly an 8 per­cent in­crease and the 11th straight year that the num­ber has risen.

Back­ground checks serve as a proxy for the num­ber of gun sales, which soared in the months im­me­di­ately af­ter the De­cem­ber 2012 Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School shoot­ings. But NICS checks plum­meted in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber com­pared with a year ear­lier, sug­gest­ing that the boom may be over.

“2013 was the best year for firearm sales (com­mer­cial, do­mes­tic) in his­tory — pe­riod! That’s true for NH to Hawaii,” said Richard Feld­man, pres­i­dent of the In­de­pen­dent Firearm Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion in Rindge, N.H. “Ruger alone sold well over one mil­lion guns this year.”

Mr. Feld­man said to ex­pect the next surge to be in bul­lets.

“Am­mu­ni­tion will still be very strong in 2014 as it hasn’t caught up na­tion­ally with the de­mand,” he said.

Gun sales spiked af­ter Sandy Hook and as Congress and a num­ber of states de­bated

“2013 was the best year for firearm sales (com­mer­cial, do­mes­tic) in his­tory — pe­riod! ... Am­mu­ni­tion will still be very strong in 2014 as it

hasn’t caught up na­tion­ally with the de­mand.”

whether to im­pose more re­stric­tions on firearms pur­chases. Congress stale­mated, but some states moved for­ward.

Monthly gun checks set an all-time peak in De­cem­ber 2012, the same month as the school shoot­ing. The next four high­est monthly to­tals for the na­tional back­ground check sys­tem all were in 2013.

Vir­ginia, which has its own Firearms Trans­ac­tion Pro­gram, re­ported a sim­i­lar trend with last year’s 479,253 back­ground checks mark­ing the high­est to­tal since the project be­gan in 1989.

Gun sales don’t per­fectly track with back­ground checks.

Thomas R. Baker, a crim­i­nol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity’s Wilder School of Gov­ern­ment and Pub­lic Af­fairs, said if buy­ers are pur­chas­ing more guns per visit, sales could be even higher.

“If, for ex­am­ple, an in­di­vid­ual walked into a store and wanted to pur­chase a hand­gun and ri­fle they would only go through one NICS check,” he said in an email. “So it is pos­si­ble that NICS num­bers could drop with gun sales go­ing up if a large num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als are pur­chas­ing mul­ti­ple firearms per trans­ac­tion.”

John Hu­dak, a fel­low in gov­er­nance stud­ies at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion who stud­ies the gun is­sue, said the fad­ing of a post-New­town boom in sales also was cou­pled with a sub­sid­ing of fear among some that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would en­act sweep­ing laws to curb gun own­er­ship.

He pointed to the high num­bers lead­ing up to and fol­low­ing the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion as well.

“I think there are a few down­ward pres­sures act­ing on the NICS checks,” he said. “Not just the New­town ef­fect wear­ing off, but the ‘fear of Obama’ ef­fect wear­ing off.”

If am­mu­ni­tion does be­come the fo­cus for gun own­ers, that could be­come another hot-but­ton topic.

Last year, the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment had to ex­plain to Congress its con­tracts to buy up to 1.6 bil­lion rounds of am­mu­ni­tion.

Some gun own­ers be­lieved the depart­ment was try­ing to crowd out pri­vate con­sumers in the am­mu­ni­tion mar­ket, but fed­eral of­fi­cials said their pur­chases amounted to a tiny frac­tion of the am­mu­ni­tion pro­duced ev­ery year.

The na­tional back­ground checks have been part of the New­town de­bate.

Only fed­er­ally li­censed deal­ers are re­quired to check cus­tomers through the sys­tem, but Sens. Joe Manchin III, West Vir­ginia Demo­crat, and Pa­trick J. Toomey, Penn­syl­va­nia Repub­li­can, pro­posed ex­pand­ing the man­date to in­clude many pri­vate trans­ac­tions. That plan failed to clear the Se­nate.

The Obama also took steps, in­clud­ing two last week de­signed to en­cour­age states to post more data about men­tally ill res­i­dents to the na­tional sys­tem.

The Depart­ment of Jus­tice is mov­ing to clar­ify who is pro­hib­ited from hav­ing a gun be­cause of men­tal health is­sues, and the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices is propos­ing a reg­u­la­tion to help states sub­mit more in­for­ma­tion on such peo­ple to the na­tional back­ground check sys­tem.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion says some states have in­di­cated that fed­eral pri­vacy pro­vi­sions might be pre­vent­ing them from sub­mit­ting in­for­ma­tion about peo­ple who can­not legally buy guns be­cause of men­tal health is­sues. HHS now is propos­ing a rule to give cer­tain en­ti­ties ex­press per­mis­sion to dis­close iden­ti­ties to the na­tional back­ground check sys­tem to keep such peo­ple from buy­ing guns.

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