Gun Sales in America Have Stopped Spiking After Mass Shootings

By Mira RojanasakulMira Rojanasakul

Over the past two decades, a predictable cycle emerged in the wake of U.S. mass shootings: gun-control advocates would demand stricter laws, gun-rights supporters warned of an imminent crackdown and gun buyers rushed to lock in purchases before it was too late.

Under President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress, however, such urgency seems to have dissipated. Would-be gun buyers hardly budged after last month's Las Vegas shooting that left 58 people dead and hundreds more injured at an outdoor concert venue. There was virtually no uptick in federal background checks for gun sales as one had come to expect.

Decrease in

◀ background checks

Increase in

background checks ▶

Total injuries

+ fatalities

600

Las Vegas

500

400

There were more than 540 victims in the Las Vegas shooting, but almost no increase in federal background checks that month

300

Many of the more deadly mass shootings cause an uptick in gun sales

200

Orlando

Aurora

Virginia Tech

San Bernardino

100

Sandy Hook

Fort Hood

Tucson

Columbine

0

0

+10

+20

+30%

-30%

-20

-10

Month-over-month change in federal firearm background checks (seasonally adjusted)

Decrease in

◀ background checks

Increase in

background checks ▶

Total injuries

+ fatalities

600

Las Vegas

500

400

There were more than 540 victims in the Las Vegas shooting, but almost no increase in federal background checks that month

300

Many of the more deadly mass shootings cause an uptick in gun sales

200

Orlando

Aurora

Virginia Tech

San Bernardino

100

Sandy Hook

Fort Hood

Tucson

Columbine

0

0

+10

+20

+30%

-30%

-20

-10

Month-over-month change in federal firearm background checks (seasonally adjusted)

Decrease in

background

◀ checks

Increase in

background

checks ▶

Total injuries

+ fatalities

600

Las Vegas

500

There were more than 540 victims in the Las Vegas shooting, but almost no increase in federal background checks that month

400

Many of the more deadly mass shootings cause an uptick in gun sales

300

Orlando

200

Aurora

San Bernardino

Virginia Tech

Sandy Hook

Fort Hood

100

Tucson

Columbine

0

0

+10

+20

+30%

-30%

-20

-10

Month-over-month change in federal firearm background checks (seasonally adjusted)

Decrease in

◀ background checks

Increase in

background checks ▶

Total injuries

+ fatalities

600

Las Vegas

500

There were more than 540 victims in the Las Vegas shooting, but almost no increase in federal background checks that month

400

300

Many of the more deadly mass shootings cause an uptick in gun sales

200

Orlando

Aurora

Virginia Tech

San Bernardino

100

Sandy Hook

Fort Hood

Tucson

Columbine

0

0

+10

+20

+30%

-30%

-20

-10

Month-over-month change in federal firearm background checks (seasonally adjusted)

Decrease in

◀ background checks

Increase in

background checks ▶

Total injuries

+ fatalities

600

Las Vegas

500

There were more than 540 victims in the Las Vegas shooting, but almost no increase in federal background checks that month

400

300

Many of the more deadly mass shootings cause an uptick in gun sales

200

Orlando

Aurora

Virginia Tech

San Bernardino

100

Sandy Hook

Fort Hood

Tucson

Columbine

0

0

+10

+20

+30%

-30%

-20

-10

Month-over-month change in federal firearm background checks (seasonally adjusted)

While there’s no comprehensive tally of firearm sales in the U.S., the best available proxy is the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Licensed gun shops are supposed to submit any buyer to a background check through this system. By that measure, the number of checks in October, after the shooting, was virtually unchanged from the month before.

That's in contrast to many mass shootings that happened under former President Barack Obama, when the number of background checks typically spiked.

Oct. 2017

Las Vegas

June 2016

Orlando

Dec. 2012

Sandy Hook

Dec. 2015

San Bernardino

July 2012

Aurora

2.5M

June 2015

Charleston

2.0

Jan. 2011

Tucson

Nov. 2009

Fort Hood

April 1999

Columbine

1.5

April 2007

Virginia Tech

Total Federal Background Checks

(Seasonally adjusted)

1.0

0.5

Bush

Obama

Trump

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

Sep. 2001

9/11

Nov. 2008

Obama elected

Nov. 2016

Trump elected

Oct. 2017

Las Vegas

June 2016

Orlando

Dec. 2012

Sandy Hook

Dec. 2015

San Bernardino

July 2012

Aurora

2.5M

June 2015

Charleston

Jan. 2011

Tucson

2.0

April 1999

Columbine

Nov. 2009

Fort Hood

1.5

April 2007

Virginia Tech

Total Federal Background Checks

(Seasonally adjusted)

1.0

0.5

Bush

Obama

Trump

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

Sep. 2001

9/11

Nov. 2008

Obama elected

Nov. 2016

Trump elected

Oct. 2017

Las Vegas

June 2016

Orlando

Dec. 2012

Sandy Hook

Dec. 2015

San Bernardino

July 2012

Aurora

2.5M

Jan. 2011

Tucson

June 2015

Charleston

2.0

Nov. 2009

Fort Hood

April 1999

Columbine

1.5

April 2007

Virginia Tech

Total Federal Background Checks

(Seasonally adjusted)

1.0

0.5

Bush

Obama

Trump

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

Sep. 2001

9/11

Nov. 2008

Obama elected

Nov. 2016

Trump elected

Oct. 2017

Las Vegas

Dec. 2012

Sandy Hook

June 2016

Orlando

July 2012

Aurora

Dec. 2015

San Bernardino

Jan. 2011

Tucson

2.5M

June 2015

Charleston

Total Federal Background Checks

(Seasonally adjusted)

2.0

Nov. 2009

Fort Hood

1.5

April 2007

Virginia Tech

April 1999

Columbine

1.0

0.5

Bush

Obama

Trump

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

Sep. 2001

9/11

Nov. 2008

Obama elected

Nov. 2016

Trump elected

Oct. 2017

Las Vegas

Dec. 2012

Sandy Hook

June 2016

Orlando

Total Federal Background Checks

(Seasonally adjusted)

July 2012

Aurora

Dec. 2015

San Bernardino

Jan. 2011

Tucson

June 2015

Charleston

2.5M

Nov. 2009

Fort Hood

2.0

1.5

April 2007

Virginia Tech

April 1999

Columbine

1.0

0.5

Obama

Trump

Bush

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

Sep. 2001

9/11

Nov. 2008

Obama elected

Nov. 2016

Trump elected

And even as some congressional Republicans have responded to renewed calls for gun control with the suggestion of more guns, the reaction among publicly traded weapons manufacturers has been notably muted, too.

Daily close

American Outdoor Brands

(formerly Smith & Wesson)

$20

10

0

Bush

Obama

Trump

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6

Daily close

Sturm Ruger & Co.

$60

40

20

Bush

Obama

Trump

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6

Daily close

American Outdoor Brands

(formerly Smith & Wesson)

$20

10

0

Bush

Obama

Trump

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6

Daily close

Sturm Ruger & Co.

$60

40

20

Bush

Obama

Trump

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6

Daily close

American Outdoor Brands

(formerly Smith & Wesson)

$20

10

0

Bush

Obama

Trump

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6

Daily close

Sturm Ruger & Co.

$60

40

20

Bush

Obama

Trump

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6

Daily

close

American Outdoor Brands

(formerly Smith & Wesson)

$20

10

Trump

0

Bush

Obama

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6

Daily

close

Sturm Ruger & Co.

$60

40

20

Trump

Bush

Obama

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6

American Outdoor Brands

(formerly Smith & Wesson)

Daily

close

$20

10

Trump

0

Bush

Obama

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6

Daily

close

Sturm Ruger & Co.

$60

40

20

Trump

Bush

Obama

0

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

Nov. 6