According to the National Shooting Sports Federation (NSSF), the trade association that represents nearly 7,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, and others involved in the gun industry, the economic impact of that industry has grown by 66 percent since the start of the Great Recession. In 2008 the total impact (direct and indirect) was $19 billion. Last year it exceeded $31 billion. Jobs and taxes it generated also jumped a similar amount. Jobs directly connected with the industry increased from 75,000 to nearly 100,000 last year, while federal, state, and excise taxes (which support wildlife conservation) increased from $3.1 billion to $5 billion.
So strong has been demand for firearms that Sturm, Ruger & Company saw a 50 percent increase in sales for the first quarter of 2012 over a year ago, forcing the company to stop accepting orders from March until May in order to catch up. Smith & Wesson said last month that they had a firearms-order backlog of almost $500 million, up an astonishing 135 percent from the same period a year ago.
This coincided with the FBI’s report that 16 million background checks (considered a proxy for gun purchases) took place through its National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS) in 2011, up by more than 11 percent from 2010. The NSSF reported that its members requested 1.2 million background checks in March of this year, up by 20 percent from a year ago and the 22nd straight monthly increase.
At the same time, reported levels of violent crime continue to decline. In June the FBI issued its Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report for 2011 which showed a decrease in violent crime of four percent over the previous year. The FBI said that all major categories of violent crime were down: murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The FBI said property crimes were also down in all categories: burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. These numbers reflect a years-long trend, with the number of violent crimes dropping for the fifth straight year and for the 18th time in the past 20 years, touching a low last seen in 1971. Furthermore the drops were registered in all four regions of the country.
And here’s another statistic: 41 states now allow citizens either to carry concealed or open carry without a permit, up from just a handful of states 25 years ago.
Is all of this coincidental? That would be a stretch, according to Andrew Arulanandam of the National Rifle Association (NRA): “This is not a one-year anomaly, but a steady decline in the FBI’s violent crime rates. It would be disingenuous for anyone not to credit increased self-defense laws to account for this decline.”