Fear-based gun buying is back

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A demonstrator wears a hat that reads 'No Guns' during a gathering on Central Park West during the March For Our Lives in New York, on March 24. Thousands of high school students and other gun-control advocates gathered in Washington and across the U.S. to demand tougher firearms restrictions.
A demonstrator wears a hat that reads 'No Guns' during a gathering on Central Park West during the March For Our Lives in New York, on March 24. Thousands of high school students and other gun-control advocates gathered in Washington and across the U.S. to demand tougher firearms restrictions.  Credit: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

Gun sales soared last month: 2,767,699 federal background checks for firearms purchases were run, the highest March number since the FBI began releasing data in 1998.

While there is no exact data on firearms purchases in the U.S., the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used as a barometer for gun sales. Adjusted for permit checks, such as concealed-carry applications, March checks were up 10.8 percent from the previous year, totaling 1,503,967. Handgun checks increased 3.9 percent, while long-gun checks increased 17.3 percent.

The strong background check data suggests that the industry is picking up after slipping into a deep slump following the 2016 presidential election.

Gun sales and industry stock prices fell off in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's electoral victory. Under a Republican president and Congress, the risk of gun-control legislation appeared to be minimal and fear-based buying stalled.

But following a mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February, a nationwide gun-control debate has been under way. Congress advanced some firearm regulation measures last month, and the White House backed a bump stock ban.

Rommel Dionisio, a managing director of equity research at Aegis Capital who focuses on publicly traded firearms companies, says March's background check numbers confirm the gun industry is showing signs of a rebound.

"The March data confirmed the reemergence of fear-based buying," KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Brett Andress wrote in a note sent Tuesday morning. "The primary tell being the more politically sensitive long guns rising 17.3 percent."

In February, long-gun checks were up 3 percent nationwide.

James Hardiman, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, a securities firm and investment bank, also noticed the uptick in long guns. The rise, he wrote in a note, confirms that "the increased buying activity is largely due to the heightened talk of gun regulation following February's tragic shooting in Florida."

-- Bloomberg News

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