Charts: Why Gun Control Was Doomed No Matter What

Charts: Why Gun Control Was Doomed No Matter What

The New York Times reports that a bipartisan group of senators are trying to try again for gun control legislation, after the last week's failure. Whether they'll have any more success a second time around is an open question. But as Tom Gara points out in the Wall Street Journal, the horse has already left the barn when it comes to limiting gun sales.

Gara quantifies the "Obama surge" in gun sales that's taken place during the gun legislation fight. "In fact, the rush beginning in December has been high even by historic standards: the FBI conducted just under 2.8 million background checks on prospective gun buyers in December 2012, the highest number in any single month since records begin in November 1998.  That’s more than triple the number it was running in in December 2002," Gara writes.

Although FBI background checks don't correspond one-to-one with gun purchases, they're useful as a proxy for the number of guns that are changing hands. The data tells a clear story: massive growth in sales over the past decade, spiking in the last few months:

Obama's re-election sparked an increase in sales. The mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, and the following push for new gun control laws led to an even greater rush to gun stores:

Of course, these numbers stand in for legal firearms sales for which background checks are required. The law that failed last week was intended to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Yet with three million guns changing hands each month, it's easy to imagine that some of them will wind up exactly where the gun control push was meant to keep them from going.

Gara quotes the CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Co. of explaining this phenomenon: “People who’ve been in the industry over the decades have told me over and over again that you ought to have a lot more [inventory] than you think because unfortunately, there are incidents, like Newtown or other ones, or like Obama getting elected, that create great political drive behind demand.”

Joseph Lawler is editor of RealClearPolicy. He can be reached by email or on twitter.

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