I didn’t buy a firearm on Black Friday for the same reason I rarely get drunk on New Year’s Eve. I’m cheap and don’t do crowds. On the other hand, whenever a law abiding citizen buys a firearm the universe finds a utopian nanny state hippie and kicks him in his underused balls. That’s a good thing and it’s happening more often every year. Americans, the real kind, the kind that spend their own money, are getting in the habit of applying the “we like freedom” hint with a sledgehammer every Black Friday. I first noticed it back in 2011:
“It’s a reasonable guess that there are some 129,000 more guns in the hands of free American citizens than there were the day before. Huzzah!”
I figured it was more or less a statistical anomaly combined with the predictable buying craze that happens every time a gun banner gets too uppity. Surely it couldn’t last? After all guns are expensive and last virtually forever. Indeed you can never have too many firearms (perish the thought!) but logically I expected demand to moderate. How many Toyotas would be sold if every Model T and every car sold since was nearly as good and most were still running?
Apparently lots of them. Americans continue to double down:
“More Americans had their backgrounds checked purchasing guns on Black Friday than any day on record… The National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 185,345 requests on Nov. 27”
Biggest. Day. Ever.
This got me thinking. More free American citizens plunked down real cash for freedom on one day than six Boston Marathons, a vegan knitting circle, every bar in my county, and eleven long haired Friends of Jesus in a chartreuse microbus. Then again they spent more on XBoxes and novelty underwear too. When numbers get large it’s hard to know if it’s a real thing or just a big number.
I wondered; “Is this a big deal or not?” I didn’t have the answer. My dog was asleep and unavailable for consultation. The duck knows but he’s not talking.
It was time to do what no journalist has done in decades; investigate. First I started estimating how many law abiding American citizens could conceivably buy a firearm. This is surprisingly a difficult number to find. The Census is all about counting people. They simply love slicing and dicing by race, age, sex, and so on. But sorting out what I’d call “normal people” is not politically correct. There are piles of charts about how many black versus hispanic versus whites in the 18-24 age class live in a specific region on alternate leap years. If I want to know how many are actually law abiding citizens… well that’s badthink.
Seeking answers, I searched on “how many American citizens”. (This was based on the theory that, at least for now, population isn’t citizenry. Also that illegal aliens are still illegal aliens in the real world. California will give them a driver’s license and Washington state will give them a joint but nobody will allow the real proof of freedom… a legal firearm). Then I realized “citizen” includes minors. Not even Texans give infants guns. Fair nuff. Then I realized that “citizen” doesn’t rule out “felon” but “felon” rules out “law abiding”. (It’s a tautology fer crissakes!)
Finally I refined my search parameters and typed in “How many people are law abiding American citizens who are adults and not fuck ups?” It’s what I wanted after all.
I could hear the NSA hard drives spinning and somewhere an analyst put a pin on a map. Google and the Census wept. But I persevered and got some data. If you’re willing to live with crude general estimates I got this:
Obviously this is highly simplified. Somewhere there’s a non-citizen, minor, felon and he’s screwing up what should be a simple chart. He’s also stealing hubcaps in Sausalito; so what? It’s my blog and I’m not about to let my question (“is this a big deal or is it not”) bog down in exceptions. My question is all about general scale.
Once you’ve got a reasonable estimate of law abiding, adult, American citizens it’s time to wonder how many of them had a handful of cash and a hankering to part with it in a way that freaks out hoplophobic chickenshits.
So what’s the conclusion? I’m thinking Black Friday is fun but just a rounding error. Technically it’s 0.14% of my “good to go” population. Didn’t seem like much. Then again Rome wasn’t built (or armed) in a day.
Once you add up all of October it gets interesting. That pencils out at 1.45% of the “good to go” population. So if you and 200 of your “good to go” pals had an October BBQ (and I’ll bet it would be awesome) one or two of em would have a new toy. Cool.
Crank it up to this year (which ‘aint even over) and the number is just under 13%. Good grief that’s a lot. Your awesome BBQ would have 26 new toys in the mix. (Yes yes, I’m aware that one NICS check might mean multiple guns. I’m also aware that there are a few of us out there who make multiple purchases in a year. You lucky bastards!) Even glossing over the crude numbers that’s a new purchase for every seven “good to go” folks in ten months. I love living in a rich country!
Of course this is America in 2015 so everything from light bulbs to soda sizes is political. You’re all surely wondering how many bitter clingers armed up since the chosen one graced us with his leadership. It clocks in at 86%. So, if you are at the hypothetical BBQ of the “good to go” folks and you haven’t bought at least something since the oceans stopped rising and our planet began to heal… well you’re a weirdo. Seriously man, get with the program. We’re all getting together for a group photo with our statistically likely 172 purchases and you’re going to have to sit out with the 28 freaks who are… boring. Here, eat some yoghurt. Loser.
Finally I looked at all the purchases on the whole 17 year NICS record (which you just know NSA has archived on a thumbdrive somewhere). (I find it ironic that NICS, the very thing that was intended to limit guns, is a nice accurate estimate of their immense popularity.) The count is now at 220,120,868 purchases for my hypothetical population of 135,863,000 “good to go” folks. That’s 162%. At my imagined (and awesome) BBQ that would be well over 300 new toys… I hope everyone brought earplugs; the range goes hot at noon, someone set up the targets.
So yes. It is a big deal and it’s a big deal no matter how you slice and dice the numbers.
Perhaps my oversimplified “good to to” population can be tweaked. If it were lower or higher that wouldn’t change the conclusions. There’s more than enough for one firearm each in any reasonable configuration.
Nor do I assume it’s evenly spread. Certainly collectors and dedicated gun nuts (I say this with reverence) are soaking up a lot of that sweet sweet boomstickery. Meanwhile there are hordes of Woody Allen clones and urbanite cringers who’d weep at the smell of Hoppes #9. They’re still in the “good to go” group even if they wouldn’t touch a firearm with a single limp pale sweaty finger. (Suddenly I wonder if Woody Allen is really a non-felon? Can that be true?)
That variation in who owns what is a feature not a bug. It’s another form (and solid proof) of freedom. What kind of bullying idiot would expect everyone to make the same choices? Oh yeah… that would the jackasses who outlawed my light bulbs and regulate my toilet reservoir and bitch about me driving my own car instead of riding a light rail that doesn’t exist. Even so, as much as I like firearms (and to make fun of yoghurt and Woody Allen), forcing people to buy something they don’t want is just crazy stupid. What kind of freak would think that way? So yeah, it’s unequally distributed but that’s because it’s all purchased by people who want it. Political fluffers will gloat that X people “chose” to join Obamacare or deigned to accept a free cell phone but firearms are all, without exception, both voluntarily undertaken, bought with real private money, and limited to law abiding people. Nice!
Happy post black Friday y’all!
P.S. If you didn’t get the hint that this was a crude estimate and you want to run the numbers yourself be my guest. Here are some sources: October 2015, October 2015 from another source, Black Friday 2015, The Census Admits Non-Citizens might have existed in 2010, Princeton counts felons, Minors, and the unexpected joy of a reasonably reliable count of law abiding citizens buying boomsticks in droves.