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Tipsheet

We All Know the Immediate Consequences of the Dems' Anti-Gun Bill

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The consequence of the Democrats’ latest anti-gun bill is nothing new. We’ve seen this before. Democrats are their own worst enemy when it comes to gun control. The more they talk about it, the more guns and ammunition sales go through the roof. Barack Obama was the gun industry’s best salesperson. His party is not too far behind him. Over 100 million firearms got purchased under the Obama presidency. Biden won’t get close to that figure because he will be a one-term president, but this latest attack on modern sporting rifles will surely drive sales. Even when the bill has zero chance of passing, anti-gun chatter on the Hill sends law-abiding Americans scrambling for more guns. Stephen Gutowski of the Reload has more:

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The bill makes it illegal to make or sell “assault weapons,” which it defines as semi-automatic centerfire rifles capable of accepting a detachable magazine and featuring one or more banned accessories, such as a pistol grip, adjustable stock or flash suppressor. It also bans certain semi-automatic shotguns and handguns. It is modeled after the 1994 federal ban that expired in 2004, though it is significantly broader than that ban, which allowed one banned accessory.

[...]

The House vote will likely be little more than a symbolic effort. Proponents of the ban do not have the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to move it forward. The bill’s companion legislation has only 37 co-sponsors.

So, the vote is intended to send a message rather than to implement policy. Democrats, who voted nearly unanimously for the bill, want to appeal to gun-control activists by delivering on what has been a top party priority for decades. But it’s not clear that what amounts to a symbolic vote is going to drive many votes toward supporters; it may even drive more votes in the opposite direction from what was intended.

But what it’s more likely to drive than votes are sales.

Just before the vote came down, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reported Americans own more than 24.4 million AR-15s and AK-47s. It also released a detailed breakdown from year to year that shows when sales of those rifles tend to spike. The vote, symbolic as it might be, is sure to have a nontrivial impact on how many AR-15s there are in the United States. It’s just that the number is going to go up instead of down.

Looking back to just before the ’94 ban was implemented, ARs and similar rifles were not nearly as popular as they are today. Only about 100,000 were sold in 1992. But that number had more than doubled by 1994, when the ban went into effect.

The ban did decrease sales for a while, cutting the total to about 70,000 in 1996. However, the focus on mostly cosmetic features meant the ban didn’t affect all ARs, and by the time it expired in 2004, sales had more than tripled from the years before the ban was implemented.

After the expiration of the ’94 ban, sales increased substantially over time. But clear spikes can be seen in the yearly data around elections and after major mass shootings, likely because those were the years when the possibility of a new ban was most acute.

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So, expect a run-on AR-15s for those who can afford them. Who the hell am I kidding? Americans would whip out their credit card if it meant the government was coming for their guns. Still, have no fear—this new bill doesn’t have the votes in the Senate.

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