by CHARLES M. BLOW
President Obama’s election and recent re-election have apparently fueled a gun-buying craze in this country unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times.
USA Today reported this week:
“For the second consecutive year, prospective gun buyers joined Black Friday shoppers in record numbers as firearms dealers swamped the F.B.I. with required buyer background check requests. The F.B.I. fielded 154,873 calls, a roughly 20 percent increase from last year’s previous one-day record of 129,166, according to bureau records. The requests came in such volume throughout the day that F.B.I. call centers experienced two brief outages — one of 18 minutes and one for 14 minutes — during the busy day, bureau spokesman Stephen Fischer said Monday.”
As the report made clear:
“The F.B.I. does not track actual gun sales. But the number of firearms sold Friday is likely higher because multiple firearms can be included in one transaction by a single buyer.”
According to the F.B.I.’s data, the number of requests forbackground checks normally peaks toward the end of the year. Nothing warms the heart for the holidays like cold steel.
The F.B.I. has conducted nearly 156 million background checks for gun purchases from November 1998 to October 2012 (the last month for which they have published data) and a full 40 percent of those checks occurred in just the four years since President Obama was first elected.
This week the popular conservative Web site World Net Daily quoted the National Rifle Association spokeswoman Jacqueline Otto as saying that the N.R.A. is not surprised by the surging gun sales because gun owners “are very informed voters and they have known that President Obama has opposed our Second Amendment rights his entire political career.”
Then they quoted her as follows:
“Gun sales are undoubtedly going up because gun owners know that at best President Obama wants to make guns and ammunition more expensive through increased taxes and regulation, and at worst he wants to make them totally illegal.”
That’s the N.R.A. line. Here is the reality. The president has done almost nothing in his first term to restrict gun ownership. As The Washington Post’s blog The Fix reported in July:
“The president signed bills allowing guns in national parks and on Amtrak. He has not pushed for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban — and Attorney General Eric Holder was reportedly chastised for suggesting he would. Nor has he moved towards closing the gun-show loophole.”
That loophole allows guns to be bought from private dealers at gun shows without a background check.
During the second presidential debate with Mitt Romney, however, Obama said:
“But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence, because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence, and they’re not using AK-47s, they’re using cheap handguns.”
That’s sounds mild and logical to me, but the N.R.A. took it as a shot across the bow. They started running ads in swing states that said, “Defend freedom, defeat Obama.”
In fact, it should be noted that, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, gun lobbyists contributed more than $3 million in the 2012 election cycle, and 96 percent of those contributions went to Republicans. That was the highest percentage going to Republicans since the center began providing comparable data.
The World Net Daily article also pointed out that “gun owners also are worried because just hours after Obama’s re-election, the U.S. signaled its support for a U.N. committee’s call to renew debate over a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global conventional arms trade.”
But as Reuters pointed out this month: “U.S. officials have acknowledged privately that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on domestic gun sales and ownership because it would apply only to exports.”
And it’s not like we need more guns, anyway. The United States has more guns per capita than any country on the planet.
Welcome to the Great American Arming.
(This column was originally Published in the November 29, 2012 New York Times under the title; “The Gun Frenzy”)
Charles M. Blow is a New York Times Columnist and nationally-known commentator: “I invite you to visit my blog By The Numbers, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”