When a mass shooting takes place on American soil, you might expect people to turn against guns en masse. After all, they’re the weapons responsible—and by extension—the nation’s gun companies are the ones making these deadly attacks possible. But something counterintuitive is happening in America. Contrary to many of the media narratives we hear today, these terrifying headlines aren’t making people abandon firearms. Rather, it’s making them buy more.
The Atlantic recently reported on the ongoing trend of gun sales increasing after a mass shooting, something that happened after Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Orlando, and many others. Some people buy more weapons because they’re afraid and want to defend themselves; others do it because they fear the government will soon crack down on purchases. Either way, the gun companies make more money.
“Before the Gun Control Act of 1968, there was a big ramp-up [in sales] because Congress was on the way to passing it,” Duke professor Phil Cook told The Atlantic.
Cook also noted that even though gun owners fear legislation that will impede future purchases, these laws never actually materialize.
“It seems like eventually the gun-loving public would learn that the federal government is not going to do anything to tighten regulations,” he said.
There’s a long-running trend in America that when gun control is an issue (or even just a perceived issue), sales go up. Industry experts often joke that the gun companies have had no better salesman than Barack Obama. During his presidency, when gun control was a regular topic in the public discourse, the industry soared. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives estimated that the nation’s stockpile of guns was increasing about six million per year in the early 2000s, versus 16 million by Obama’s second term.
Mass shootings might sway the majority of Americans toward favoring gun control, but the minority is a powerful one. According to a study conducted in 2016 by Harvard and Northeastern Universities, a mere three percent of America’s adult citizens own 130 million of its guns.