A recent story in the Washington Post reported that in the first couple of months following the election of Donald Trump as president, firearm and ammunition sales “dropped precipitously,” but a careful reading of data from the FBI’s National Instant Check System suggests things were not so bad.
The story said, “Gun clubs and shops that cater to black and LGBT clients say there has been an uptick in interest in firearms since November among those who fear that racial and gender-based violence could increase during Trump’s presidency.”
That was significant because it reflected an interesting socio-political turn for groups traditionally taken for granted as being liberal and therefore anti-gun.
A record was set in December 2015 when the FBI conducted 3,314,594 NICS checks. This does not translate to one-on-one sales data, according to a caveat on the FBI’s website. But the number is a strong indicator of firearms sales.
In December 2016, NICS checks fell to 2,771,159, a decline of only about a half-million. But in January, there were only 2,043,184 checks conducted (as opposed to 2.545,802 checks in January 2016) and in February there was a slight uptick to 2,234,817 (down from the 2,613,074 in February 2016).
According to the story, stock value fell at publicly-traded companies in the firearms field, and sales of modern sporting rifles—the so-called “assault weapons” that anti-gunners want banned—had also declined in the election aftermath. But that was predictable because many people were buying firearms in anticipation of a November victory for Hillary Clinton, who had made it clear early in the campaign she would push for stricter gun control.
But with Trump in the White House, another interesting situation has developed.
The story quoted Philip Smith, president of the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA). He told the newspaper that there is a concern among his members that “divisive politics” could descend into violence.
And other stories from around the country indicate anecdotal evidence that non-traditional gun owners, such as those identifying as politically liberal or in the LGBT community are buying guns and seeking training.
Of course, so-called non-traditional groups have always had membership in what the late David Caplan called The Second Amendment Friendship. And, sadly, some segments have not al- ways been as welcoming as they could—or should be to outsiders.
Most women gun owners have experienced the look of bemusement, and sometimes horror, on the face of gun club members or gun shop employees when they first dare set foot in a club or gun shop.
In the case of a gun shop, the transactional nature of the stop usually means at least a modicum of courtesy. If it doesn’t, the female customer can leave—taking her credit card with her.
At a gun club, the passage is usually eased by another member perhaps the one that encouraged you to stop by. But it can be an intimidating experience—and as Lyn Bates points out in her column elsewhere in this issue—sometimes the amenities them-selves can be off-putting.
For every “little lady” comment I have heard at ranges, gun shows, national conventions, trade shows, etc., I have heard just as many “atta girl,” or “my granddaughter is the best shot in the family.” And the positive comments have grown over the years, as had the diversity of those attending all these gun-related events.
This is not to beat up entirely on gun owners—even the most hidebound. It has always been part of the group dynamic to be wary, and sometimes hostile, to newcomers.
When I started playing competitive Scrabble a decade ago, it took some courage to present myself at a local club. Not everyone was happy to see a newbie—one who would have to be taught some of the intricacies of competitive play. Others were happy for more “cannon fodder” that they could whip regularly and drive up their averages. And still others—the vast majority—were happy to have a new club member, to see someone else enjoy the game as they did, and to occasionally help with the clean-up.
Friendship, as we all should know at this point, is a two-way street. Welcoming new members is relatively easy, creating friend-ships and sustaining them is the task we must all take up.