reports the Washington Post,
Several variables drive sales, but many dealers, buyers and experts attribute the increase in part to concerns about the economy and fears that if Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois wins the presidency, he will join with fellow Democrats in Congress to enact new gun controls.
The trouble is that, as the article says some twenty paragraphs down,
This year's jump is a continuation of a trend that began in 2006, about the time the housing bubble popped in parts of the nation, and remained steady last year as the political season began to take shape and the housing crisis grew.Sure enough, FBI data shows the increase starting in 2006. If you compare each month to the same month in the preceding year, you see the spike beginning basically in late 2005 or January 2006, with the increase being higher in nearly every 2007 month than in nearly every 2008 month (all numbers are percentage differences between the same month in two neighboring years, with the last column representing the percentage differences between years):
|2001, relative to 2000||0||-5||-1||-4||1||-2||-1||4||10||22||9||6||4|
|2002, relative to 2001||4||3||-2||6||5||-4||-1||-2||-16||-18||-10||-8||-5|
|2003, relative to 2002||-2||2||3||-1||0||2||0||-1||2||1||-5||3||0|
|2004, relative to 2003||6||2||0||3||-4||3||5||-2||0||1||6||7||2|
|2005, relative to 2004||-1||3||4||3||3||2||0||3||7||-2||4||8||3|
|2006, relative to 2005||13||10||10||6||12||11||12||21||16||14||13||8||12|
|2007, relative to 2006||15||11||15||20||28||29||20||10||3||6||3||-2||11|
|2008, relative to 2007||5||12||7||12||10||3||18||4||3|
So it's hard to see how this supports the "concerns about the economy" story; there's always some concern about the economy, but I have no reason to think that it somehow dramatically increased in late 2005 or early 2006, and then decreased in 2008 compared to 2007. And I don't see how it supports the "fears of future gun controls" story, especially since you'd think that most of the buying along those lines will happen when the gun controls are actually proposed and working their way through the legislative process, rather than just when a pro-gun-control President might seem likely to be elected. So the Washington Post rationales seem to be supported by the quotes they use from the particular sources they rely on, but not by the hard data.
Thanks to Andrew Siddons of the Yomiuri Shimbun for the pointers.