Federal gun background checks increased year-over-year for the 18th consecutive month in October amid several high-profile attacks and Donald Trump’s repeated warnings that Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System ran about 2.3 million checks in October, up 18 percent compared to October 2015.
Gun transactions continue to break records under President Obama, who analysts said spurred fears of future restrictions on which firearms gun owners could buy. The increases in recent months also could be due to the presidential debates, in which Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, has warned that gun rights are at stake in the election.
There was a similar surge of NICS checks in October 2008 and October 2012 — the last two presidential elections.
The federal data do not represent a one-to-one correlation in gun sales but are used as a general approximation of the market.
Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said fear of a Clinton presidency coupled with terrorist attacks have spurred people to arm themselves and obtain permits to carry concealed weapons.
“People are very fearful of what a Clinton presidency would do to their Second Amendment rights,” Mr. Pratt said. “Obama had the sense to mute his support for gun control during both campaigns. But not Hillary.”
Indeed, Mrs. Clinton has campaigned on a platform of stricter gun controls, essentially daring groups like Mr. Pratt’s and the National Rifle Association — which has endorsed Mr. Trump — to come after her.
“Don’t let Hillary leave you protected with nothing but a phone,” says one NRA ad.
Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control group co-founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, noted that the number of background checks is up, but said that’s a normal effect of politicking, not a signal of underlying changes in buying patterns.
“There is no problem with gun sales that go through a background check, which is what the latest NICS data tells us about,” said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for the group. “The uptick around elections correlates with the NRA leadership’s marketing of fear about how the election could affect gun rights.”
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, cited a CNN report this week that said an executive at the gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger and Co. said rising sales in the third quarter were likely bolstered by the presidential campaign.
But Mr. Gross said the issue is with Mr. Trump — not Mrs. Clinton.
“What’s most troubling is this correlation between soaring gun sales and an increasingly turbulent and violent political atmosphere,” Mr. Gross said. “Thanks to Trump, Americans are scared of what might happen on Election Day, even canceling class at schools with polling places over fear of this violence.”
Democrats at the national level had largely shied away from gun control as a major campaign issue in recent cycles, after some blamed the 1994 assault weapons ban passed under former President Bill Clinton for the party’s losses in that year’s midterms and for Al Gore’s loss in the 2000 presidential election.
But Mrs. Clinton has said she wants to see such a ban reinstated.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, frequently touts his NRA endorsement and says more guns could have mitigated attacks like the ones in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando, Florida.