Colorado Gun Sales Rise As Mass Shootings, Democratic Debates Grab Headlines

Handguns Display
Charlie Riedel/AP
Handguns for sale are lined up in a display case, Dec. 21, 2018.

Politics and news of mass shootings seem to be driving Colorado gun sales up.

August and September are typically slow months, but gun sales were up 11 and 9 percent respectively, according to data from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. That’s the first significant back-to-back monthly increase in three years, before the 2016 presidential election.

Mass shootings tend to drive sales. The more high profile the shooting, the more gun store activity there is, no matter the party in office.

In August alone, more than 50 people were killed in mass shootings, including the Walmart shooting in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead. Walmart responded by discontinuing sales of certain ammunition, including for handguns.

Matt Sebesta, the general manager of Family Shooting Center, a popular gun range and store in Aurora, said that’s a factor, but it’s the 2020 presidential election and Democratic debates over gun buybacks and confiscations that are “driving a ton of (sales).”

From January through September, Coloradans purchased 239,831 guns. That’s still an overall 3 percent decline versus the same period in 2018. But after big declines in the early part of 2019, sales have started to turn around since May.

Republicans taking control of Congress and the presidency in 2016 put a damper of sales, even as the NRA and other gun industry groups spent millions in campaign cash to elect conservative lawmakers. Since President Donald Trump has been in office, Colorado gun sales declined 5 percent in 2017 and 5 percent again in 2018.

Historical data on gun sales in Colorado going back to 2001 shows that presidential elections motivate purchases, and so gun store traffic is likely to continue to rise as the 2020 campaign season heats up.