After Orlando, handgun demand spiked in Maine and elsewhere

In line with past patterns, background check requests from Maine gun dealers spiked in June, following the country’s deadliest mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Maine background checks for handguns jumped about 18 percent in June, compared with one year earlier.

More striking is the longer-term rise in handgun permit requests.

Using a 12-month moving average, background checks for handgun purchases in Maine hit an all-time high in June after surpassing the moving average of checks for rifles and shotguns in December.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that background checks hit an all-time high in Florida in June, which was also the third highest month nationwide.

That’s become a predictable pattern at the national level, where mass shootings prompt efforts at stricter gun regulations. That, in turn, prompts warnings from gun rights advocates leading to more gun sales.

Gov. Paul LePage, a staunch opponent of new gun regulations, said during a recent Richmond town hall that he’s one such customer.

“…Every time there’s a big gun battle about one of these incidences, I go and buy a gun,” he said.

Handgun permit requests in Maine hit an all-time high in December 2015, with the combination of typically above-average December sales and terrorism-linked shootings in Paris in November and in December at an office building in San Bernardino, California.

Looking back at the period after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there was a sustained rise in checks for handguns. But that appears much smaller than the rise in recent months.

To look at the increase in another way, the number of handgun background check requests for 2016 is far above monthly averages from 2006-2016, hitting 71 percent above that average last month.

In February, a month when handgun permit checks are above average compared to other months, handgun background checks this year were more than double the average across all years from 2006 through 2016.

As I noted in a previous post on this topic, gun sellers large and small in numerous news reports have linked the threat of gun control legislation — typically in response to a mass shooting — to rising sales.

If that trend continues, the looming fight over a November referendum to expand background check requirements to include private sales, too, could fuel more demand.

Though that topic itself demonstrates how data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System misses some gun transactions and may, in some cases, reflect background checks done without a gun purchase.

But that dataset is the best reflection of firearms demand we have — in addition to stock prices of the country’s major gun manufacturers, which Bloomberg reported have been on a steady rise since 2008.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.