The winter storm that left much of the nation covered in snow and ice last month also caused gun sales to cool down a bit after heating up in January following the Capitol Hill insurrection.
Gun retailers across the country still managed to sell more firearms last month than in any February since 2016, according to FBI firearm-sale background check data released Tuesday afternoon.
The estimated 1.39 million guns sold last month was a 7.2% year-over-year increase from the roughly 1.29 million guns sold in February 2020, according to the National Shooting Sports Federation, a firearms industry trade group that tracks monthly gun sales.
The NSSF, which cross references FBI background checks with national retail sales figures to come up with its more-accurate firearm sale stats, said gun sales last month were the third highest for any February on record.
With the exception of February 2016, last month’s gun sales were surpassed only by those in February 2013, two months after the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting, which left many gun buyers fearful that Congress would pass sweeping legislation limiting their ability to purchase weapons.
NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva said that because 2020 set an all-time record for firearm sales, last month’s dip may seem steep, but the overall sales numbers are still notably high.
“A 7.2% increase year-over-year is pretty strong growth,” Oliva told CNN Business. “Any [gun] manufacturer would take that in a heartbeat.”
Oliva said February’s historic winter storm likely had a lot to do with gun sales slowing down. He said gun sales in Texas, where unusually frigid temperatures caused millions to lose power and stay indoors, were down 13% from the previous year.
The Lone Star State typically ranks among the highest in monthly gun sales.
“Everyone was frozen for a week without power,” Oliva said. “If you can’t get out of your home, you’re not going to go purchase a firearm.”
Politics also likely played a role in last month’s figures.
So far, President Joe Biden has declined to use his executive authority to ban imports of assault weapons as he promised to do in the 2020 campaign. Oliva said that inaction may have lessened the sense of urgency that gun owners felt in January to buy the firearms of their choice before any new gun-control measures might become law.
On February 14, Biden marked the three-year anniversary of the deadly Parkland school shooting by calling on Congress to enact “common sense gun law reforms.” Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler answered Biden’s call on Tuesday by introducing the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 to the House.
Share prices of major gun makers that surged during the Capitol Hill riot also fell last month. Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger’s stock prices, which peaked at $22.52 and $77.92 respectively on January 6, were down to a respective $17.33 and $68.06 at the closing bell Tuesday.
But Oliva said the gun makers’ fortunes could again change quickly once a gun-control bill arrives on Biden’s desk.
“I think it will catch many people off guard and spur the sale of firearms,” Oliva said.