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The end of the “Trump slump” in gun sales has arrived

Ever since Donald Trump took office and Republicans maintained control of the Senate, gun sales have been down. People in the industry have referred to it as “the Trump slump.” But now, with the next election not looking like a sure thing and Democratic presidential candidates promising bans and confiscations, that trend has finally turned around. Based on FBI records of background checks being performed, the United States is on track to break a gun sales record set during Barack Obama’s last year in office. (Associated Press)

Background checks on gun purchases in the U.S. are climbing toward a record high this year, reflecting what the industry says is a rush by people to buy weapons in reaction to the Democratic presidential candidates’ calls for tighter restrictions.

By the end of November, more than 25.4 million background checks — generally seen as a strong indicator of gun sales — had been conducted by the FBI, putting 2019 on pace to break the record of 27.5 million set in 2016, the last full year President Barack Obama was in the White House.

On Black Friday alone, the FBI ran 202,465 checks.

As the AP report correctly points out, the number of background checks only provides a preliminary prediction of sales and it’s not 100% accurate. Not all people who submit a background check are approved. Also, some checks result in multiple sales, while others are done solely for purposes of applying for a concealed carry permit. All of these figures can skew away from the total number of sales.

This remains one of the great ironies in the firearms industry. All of the manufacturers obviously want to see a conservative who supports Second Amendment rights be elected. But every time that actually happens, their sales go down because people aren’t so worried about losing their right to purchase and own a firearm. The sense of urgency simply isn’t there like it is with a gun grabber in office.

This particular crop of Democratic candidates has given potential purchasers of firearms plenty of reason to be concerned. Few of them seem willing to settle for “only” increases in background checks. Almost all of them support some form of gun ban and some are openly calling for gun confiscation and a national gun owner registry. With that in mind, shoppers clearly want to avoid putting off future purchases in case Trump is replaced by someone like Pete Buttigieg or Bernie Sanders.

Even if the Democratic nominee does wind up defeating Trump, you still have more than a year before he’d be out of office. But in some cases that may not even be enough. In New York State it can take upwards of a year to get a handgun permit approved even if you have a pristine record. If you’re in New York City it’s even worse. Similar delays can be encountered in other blue states.

So this is good news for the firearms industry, but it’s only going to last for just so long. If Trump wins, or even if he doesn’t but the GOP maintains control of the Senate, the Trump slump will probably return whether he’s in office or not. But just in case we hit the worst-case scenario next November, you might want to start shopping now while you still have the chance.