More shootings paradoxically lead to a run on guns, and around here we’re no exception. Washington state residents are buying up guns at all-time record rates. The gun problem isn’t the NRA. It’s us.
At the website Armslist.com, known as the “Craigslist for guns,” the reaction to the Orlando mass shooting last weekend couldn’t have been clearer.
Listings soared. Get your guns while they’re hot. Stock up while you still can.
“Get this AR before Hillary does!” reads an ad posted Wednesday by someone in Bremerton, selling a semi-automatic assault weapon for $2,000.
“Comes with 19 mags, about 2700 rounds of ammo,” reads another posting, from Tuesday, for a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle out of Lynnwood. Price is $2,500. Or: seller’s willing to trade “for a 55 gallon drum of liberal tears.”
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Liberals do have reason to weep. Because for all the heartfelt talk about the nation maybe enacting some more extensive system of gun control, the seismic movement in society of late has been in the other direction. We’re arming up.
“Anyone panic buy today?” a gun enthusiast posted on a local site, seattleguns.net. “I admit that I did. I also noticed … there was a lot more sold out guns than there normally seems to be.”
These gun-buying splurges that follow mass shootings are gruesome, but also presumably short-lived. What’s happening in Washington state though, for all the blather about how liberal we are, isn’t just fleeting. It’s a sustained and growing commitment by the public to buying and owning guns.
For the first five months of this year, folks here have submitted to 347,000 background checks, required when buying a gun or applying for a concealed-carry permit. That would have been a record for the entire year as recently as 2010.
The current rate of 69,000 background checks per month is a 48 percent increase over the all-time record Washington gun-buying year of 2013. It’s an incredible five times the rate of 15 years ago.
The data comes from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the federal screening database designed to keep guns out of the hands of people with criminal or severe mental-health histories. Last year the system at least temporarily blocked about 4,000 people from either buying a gun in the state or getting a permit, mostly because they were ex-felons. This is evidence, in my view, that background checks do some good.
But whatever minor gun-control measures we have are swamped by the public’s sheer interest in more and more guns.
In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, there were more than 15 million guns manufactured in the U.S. or imported into the country, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. What’s telling about this figure is that 10 years ago it was “only” 6 million guns. This means that in the past decade, with all the shootings followed by grim rituals of grief and calls that “we must do something,” what really has moved is the appetite for guns. It has soared 150 percent.
What to make of this? It doesn’t mean all gun-control measures are fruitless (even a majority of gun owners supports basic regulations to block bad gun sales, such as background checks.)
But it’s why more sweeping gun control, such as gun licensing, storage requirements or banning categories of weapons or ammunition, is so stubbornly elusive. It tends to run up against a force far more powerful than the NRA: us.
“New in box, AR-15 assault rifle patterned after the one (Seal Team 6) used to kill bin Laden,” reads an Armslist classified ad out of Sammamish. The vicarious thrill of the kill of the century can be yours, for $1,500. The ad photo shows the black rifle lovingly laid on a military camouflage jacket.
That’s just gun porn. After all the carnage, when we do nothing much about it but buy ever more guns and then fetishize them to boot, it doesn’t seem likely that speeches or town hall meetings or congressional filibusters will change much.
We’re addicted. We need some kind of an intervention.