How do mass shootings impact Colorado gun sales?

Grocery Store Tragedy

DENVER (KDVR) — Some of the biggest jumps in Colorado firearms purchasing are directly related to mass shootings.

There is an interplay between mass shootings and other events such as presidential elections and Christmas, however, that makes mass shootings less likely to be the sole cause.

According to statistics from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Coloradans bought firearms in higher-than-average volume during the months of or the months directly following high profile mass shootings.

CBI tracks firearms applications by month going back to 2001. The ten months with the highest monthly increase in applications were October 2009, December 2013, July 2012, March 2020, December 2015, November 2008, December 2012, December 2004, August 2001, August 2003 and November 2012.

Some these were the months of some of the nation’s worst public mass shootings.

  • December 2013 – Arapahoe High School shooting
  • July 2012 – Aurora theater shooting
  • December 2015 – San Bernardino shooting, Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting
  • December 2012 – Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting
  • December 2004 – Columbus night club shooting
  • August 2003 – Lockheed Martin shooting

The peak months following both the Aurora theater and Planned Parenthood shootings were the two highest-volume months for Colorado firearm purchases in the last 20 years, with over 50,000 applications to purchase firearms in each month.

Other factors amplify whatever increases are associated with mass shootings, Christmas and Election Day in particular.

Christmas season sales play an undeniable role in Colorado firearm purchases. Purchase applications swing upward every December.

During the pandemic year, sales spiked so high in March they caused a statewide backlog in background checks.

Presidential elections also play a role, though not in every case.

Colorado gun purchases actually went down during the 2004 election of George W. Bush. They increased in November 2020, as well, but the pandemic year’s firearms purchase rates were already elevated.

The 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections, however, coincided with some of the highest-volume months.

Barack Obama’s 2008 election coincided with the single highest-selling month of the 2000s. His reelection in November 2012 was the highest-selling month to date. The following December, driven by the San Bernardino and Planned Parenthood shootings along with the usual Christmas spike, produced the highest-selling month from 2001-present.

The 2016 elections produced an 18% increase in gun purchase applications, roughly on par with the typical December increase.

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