Ready for Some Numbers?

In December, I reported on the surge in sales of semiautomatic rifles at our local gun shop; in January, I posted about the remarkable news that the BATFE had actually run out of original forms used to conduct federal background checks on gun buyers, and was allowing gun dealers to use photocopies of the forms.

Semiautomatic rifles and handguns continue flying off the shelves of gun shops across the country, and it’s also getting very difficult to find ammunition. The online dealer I usually buy from in bulk is now sold out of .223 (AR rifle ammo), 7.62×39 (AK-47), 9mm Luger, 12-ga buckshot, and many many other popular rounds. He’s not even listing .380 Auto on his site anymore, and I can’t find that size in any local stores (am glad I stocked up when I could). He finally got some .45 ACP back on his site this morning.

Another dealer I buy from listed a whole bunch of new ammo last Thursday, and I tried calling to place an order. The lines were busy all afternoon, and I never got through. On Monday, they posted a notice that all the new 7.62×39 rounds they’d just listed were now gone (and keep in mind that this was Wolf brand ammo, which is far from the first choice for most serious shooters). Here’s what they’ve posted today:

IT HAS BEEN A MADHOUSE HERE.
WHAT IS UP WITH OUR PHONES?
WE ARE GETTING A LOT OF COMPLAINTS ABOUT HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO GET THROUGH TO US ON OUR PHONES.

BELIEVE ME, WE KNOW, AND TO QUOTE A FORMER PRESIDENT, WE FEEL YOUR PAIN. HERE IS THE PROBLEM.WE HAVE 7 INCOMING PHONE LINES HERE AT CLASSIC . DURING NORMAL TIMES THIS IS MORE THAN ADEQUATE. HOWEVER, THESE ARE NOT NORMAL TIMES. THE FIREARMS MARKET IS JUST EXPLODING RIGHT NOW WITH THE DEMAND FAR EXCEEDING THE SUPPLY.

FOR EXAMPLE:- IF WE GET IN A BATCH OF 200 AK RIFLES, AND POST THEM TO OUR SITE, IT WILL LITERALLY GENERATE THOUSANDS OF PHONE CALLS TRYING TO PURCHASE.THE SAME THING IS HAPPENING WITH AMMO. WE WILL GET IN A COUPLE OF PALLETS OF AMMO IN AND AS SOON AS WE POST IT TO THE SITE IT WILL GENERATE HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF CALLS.

WE DO HAVE HELPFUL CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVES WHO ARE DOING THEIR BEST TO TAKE ALL OF YOUR ORDERS.BUT THE PHONES ARE LITERALLY RINGING OFF OF THE HOOK.

Since I couldn’t get through on their phones, I stopped by Wal-Mart yesterday afternoon, looking for some .45 ACP. They had exactly one box of 50 rounds, and very little in other handgun calibers. (No .380, no .40 S&W, and no 9mm Luger.)

I bought that one box of .45 ACP for $15, and drove to the local gun shop. The place was jammed. After browsing a few 9mm handguns, I turned my attention to their ammo shelf. They had cases upon cases available, in nearly every caliber (except .380 and 7.62×39). It was all the ammo you could ever want — but at a very high price. A box of 100 rounds of .45 ACP was $45. You read that right: Fifty Percent more than Wal-Mart! But at least they had it in stock. I suppose Wal-Mart could also keep it in stock, if they wanted to jack their prices — but that doesn’t seem to be Wal-Mart’s business model. Speaking of Wal-Mart, there are some fascinating discussion threads on various message boards, where people report how difficult it is to find ammo at WM these days. (As for me, I’m seriously wondering if Wal-Mart is deliberately keeping most of their ammo off the shelf, and putting it out a couple of boxes at a time, to ration it and thwart bulk sales.)

There are no readily-available numbers for ammo sales, but there is one indisputably reliable indicator for gun sales: the number of NICS background checks conducted by the FBI. Each background check does not necessarily translate into an actual gun transfer; some sales may not go through after the background check, and I believe some people may be purchasing multiple firearms on the same background check. But it’s still a good rough indicator of volume — and how that volume has changed over time. The raw numbers for the last ten years are available from the FBI. For the last four months (beginning the month Barack Obama was elected), here are the totals:

Nov-08: 1,529,635
Dec-08: 1,523,426
Jan-09: 1,213,885
Feb-09: 1,259,078

Being a social scientist, my first question was “Compared to what?” Well, November and December were 47% and 46% higher, respectively, than the next-highest month last year (March, 2008). January (+17%) and February (+21%) of 2009 were also considerably higher than last March. But the typical sales reporting compares a month’s results to the same month one year previously. Here are each month’s percentage increases compared to that same month the year before:

What’s driving these numbers? For the gun sales, no doubt part of it is concern that the Clinton-era ban on sales of semiautomatic rifles will be reinstituted. (Indeed, the new Attorney General is already beginning to talk about a new ban.) But I think there’s a lot more to these numbers than that. All of that increase can’t be accounted for by AK-47s and AR-15s. And even if it is, why the run on popular handgun calibers like .45 ACP and 9mm Luger? There is no talk in Washington about banning sales of those.

My gut tells me that these sales are being driven by a deep anxiety that all you-know-what is about to break loose in this country. With increasing economic troubles, the specter of large numbers of people losing their homes, uncertainty about the future of the banking system, the possibility of hyperinflation…I think a lot of people are growing concerned about a widespread breakdown in civil order. Most of us are familiar with the video from the Los Angeles riots in the early 1990s, and remember how business owners had to take their security into their own hands when the police were unable or unwilling to assist.

As for our family…we’re relieved beyond words to be far from urban centers, particularly this year. But we’re also painfully aware of how far we are from police assistance should we ever need it.

Which is why we are continuing to take prudent measures to augment our own personal security here on the farm. And, should there be serious disruptions in the food supply chain, we are making sure we have plenty of firepower available for bringing home our own game.

2 thoughts on “Ready for Some Numbers?

  1. It reminds me of the scene in the < HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Milagro_Beanfield_War" REL="nofollow">Milagro Beanfield War<> when the old men start trying to trade their food stamps for ammo: funny on screen; alarming in life.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s