Few things make for a jolly holiday atmosphere around SGN as much as hearing that gun sales are up. When advertisers are happy, we're happy. And advertisers should be exceptionally happy this season.
The FBI reported the greatest number of NICS (National Instant Check System) checks on record in December, with more than 1.5 million. Dealers requested 102,222 background checks Dec. 23, the second-busiest day in history. The record went to the day after Thanksgiving, at 129,166 checks. The previous one-day high was set November 28, 2008, when gun dealers requested almost 98,000 background checks.
Since the NICS program began in 1998, more than 130 million checks have been made, with a rejection rate around 1%. Whether it's cost-effective to investigate 99 law-abiding potential buyers to catch one scofflaw can certainly be debated. But up to now, at least, the NICS check has not been a major bottleneck in gun sales.
Speed apparently hasn't been much of a problem, either: the FBI claims an average time for a reply at 6.37 seconds in 2010, down from 8.75 in 2008 (www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/reports/2010-operations-report/2010-operations-report-pdf).
So lots of people are buying lots of guns, and getting what appears to be good service from the FBI. Why? What's driving all these sales?
In the mainstream media, the usual suspects were asked the usual questions, and delivered the usual answers. The most common explanation was fear of crime, even though crime is lower in many categories than it has been in memory.
That was followed up by fear of stiffer gun laws, even though Republicans seem poised to retain control of the House and possibly to retake the Senate. And while the Obama Administration has nibbled around the edges of gun control with executive initiatives like Operation Fast & Furious, it has made no overt moves to restrict firearms.
Anti-gun organizations took a new tack, claiming fewer people are buying more guns, which very well may be true, but so what?
I'm going to propose a different explanation. When have you seen guns more prominently represented in popular culture? A quick look at your cable TV listings shows NRA Guns & Gold, Sons of Guns, Student of the Gun, Top Shot, Triggers, and many more, including Intermedia fare like Guns & Ammo TV and Personal Defense TV.
I think you'd have to go back to the 1950s to find a time when guns were so ubiquitous. And the gun industry is bigger, more aggressive and more creative than it's ever been in my more than 35 years as part of it.
So if you've gotten a gun recently, for yourself or someone else, what was the reason?
1. Fear of crime
2. Fear of Obama
3. No fear at all: just wanted one