The Obama gun run appears to be over, according to the latest statistics, which show background checks for firearms purchases — a rough measure of gun sales — have dropped for three straight months since Donald Trump was elected as president.
Americans were on a 19-month buying streak before the election, but their fervor has cooled a bit.
Second Amendment advocates and those in the industry say sales remain relatively high but that they are working to retool their marketing in a post-Obama world.
Gun control advocates, meanwhile, say pro-gun folks have lost their “bogeyman” in the White House.
About 2.2 million checks were run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in February, compared with about 2.6 million in February 2016. The number was slightly more than 2 million in January, down from more than 2.5 million in January 2016. In December, about 2.8 million checks were run, down from about 3.3 million in December 2015.
NICS checks are not direct correlations to gun purchases but are often used as approximations of the strength of the market.
Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said there is no doubt in his mind that gun purchases “would have continued to skyrocket” and set sales records had Hillary Clinton been elected president.
Still, he said, the market is relatively hot. The totals for January and February were the third-highest in history for their respective months.
“This is not surprising, given that Americans are still very concerned about their safety and the threat of terrorism,” Mr. Pratt said.
He also said the number of concealed carry permits has tripled in the U.S. since 2007 and that a number of states have enacted concealed carry laws in recent years.
“Not surprisingly, Americans are purchasing guns that are especially suited for concealed carry,” he said.
But the industry is also feeling the political change that came when Mr. Trump, who campaigned aggressively for gun rights, was elected to succeed President Obama, who advocated stricter controls.
“Retailers that experienced panic buying in the past are hitting the reset button to compete in an altered selling environment, one that demands more planning and forward thinking to maintain a consistent bottom line,” Peter B. Mathiesen recently wrote in a piece for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for gun manufacturers.
The foundation offered advice to retailers on how to survive the new dynamic, suggesting discounts for early payments or promoting newer models.
“Our MSR inventories for the November election were stocked for higher demand, but certainly not over the top. Here in the South, we really thought Trump would win,” Jim Brown, the store manager of Scott’s Outdoors in Jay, Florida, told the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
With Republicans now in power in the White House and Congress, gun control advocates say a push to loosen firearms laws is likely as sales appear to wane.
“Without a bogeyman in the White House coming to take everyone’s guns away, it looks like it may be a lot harder to push the product,” said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.
“As a result, we will see the gun lobby continue to advance an agenda of more guns everywhere, for anyone, no questions asked,” she said.
Congress has been moving to loosen restrictions since the election, voting to reverse an Obama-era rule directing the Social Security Administration to look for people deemed mentally deficient and add their records to the national instant check system.
The House passed legislation last week that would require judges to rule veterans as dangerous before labeling them “mentally defective” and potentially preventing him from buying guns.
Republicans also have introduced national concealed carry reciprocity legislation in the House and Senate so that more permits issued in any given state will be recognized in other states.
That item is perpetually on the wish list for gun rights advocates but now has a significantly better chance of being signed into law with Republicans controlling the White House and Congress.