Politics & Policy

In Age of Trump, Unlikely Customers Exercise Second-Amendment Rights

When President Obama left office, gun sales nationwide were at an all-time high. FBI background checks, one of the strongest indicators of national gun sales, totaled 27.5 million in 2016, shattering the record of 23 million set in 2015.

Although the number of FBI checks remains high, the upward trend witnessed under Obama has changed course under President Trump.

“Without the continued national threat to gun rights from Obama and Clinton,” said Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb, “gun sales have backed off new record highs.” This seemed to be the case in February when FBI background checks totaled 2.2 million, a decrease of 400,000 background checks compared to that of February 2016.

Still, while the number of guns being purchased may have decreased since Trump was elected, the demographic makeup of those purchasing firearms has changed.

According to the Washington Post, “Gun clubs and shops that cater to black and LGBT clients say there has been an uptick in interest in firearms since November among those who fear that racial and ethnic-based violence could increase during Donald Trump’s presidency.”

More than 7,000 people, for example, became members of the National African Gun Association after Election Day. Meanwhile, pro-LGBT shooting organizations such as Pink Pistols have had a surge in membership because many people in the LGBT community are worried Trump will roll back gay rights. “Suddenly they’re buying guns,” said Gwendolyn Patton, the Pink Pistols’ first speaker. “The rhetoric has flipped.”

Even residents in liberal Cleveland, Ohio, where Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly won on Election Day, are purchasing more guns out of fear of the Trump administration. “Whether it’s perceived or true,” Cleveland gun dealer Kevin Jones said, “a lot of people feel that there’s a lot more racially oriented violence out there right now.”

Stereotypically, gun owners are assumed to be white Republicans living in rural America. How ironic it would be if the Trump administration ended up being inadvertently responsible for a dramatic broadening of the gun-owning coalition.

Austin Yack — Austin Yack is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute and a University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus.

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