While the so-called “mainstream” media is reporting with great glee that 2011 Black Friday retail sales was up 6.6 percent over last year to a record $11.4 billion one other tidbit of data was ignored that probably says more about our social condition than anything: the FBI reported that background check requests for prospective gun buyers on the same day shattered the single-day, all time high by 32 percent. According to Deputy Assistant FBI Director Jerry Pender on November 25th, 129,166 checks were submitted far exceeding the previous high of 97,848 on Black Friday 2008.
Now it could be argued that the record gun sales are a result of more Americans all of sudden taking an interest in hunting or gun collecting. But this explanation seems far-fetched as these two things are not normally associated with fad behavior. Furthermore, the recent surge in gun sales is part of a larger trend in gun ownership. According to the Gallup Organization, 47 percent of Americans report they keep a gun on their properties. This is up 15 percent from a year ago and the highest Gallup has reported since 1993.
Make no mistake about it, the massive increase in firearm purchases has everything to do with the miserable shape America is in socially. For one thing, as the economy continues to deteriorate with rising price inflation and chronic high levels of unemployment, Americans know that it is only a matter of time before they could become the victims of crime.
Americans also understand that social unrest like has been seen in Europe is possible in the U.S. Even though it has been relatively peaceful, the Occupy Wall Street Movement is seen by many as a harbinger of things to come. Given that there are many Americans who feel betrayed, disenfranchised, and totally frustrated by a system that has taken their sustenance in order to bailout those that produced the Financial Crisis of 2008 and the resulting prolonged depression, it is possible that as a society we could be one financial shock away from social upheaval. This may sound paranoid, but given the recent surge in gun sales I may not be alone in my thinking.
So while robust retail sales on Black Friday is being construed as a hopeful sign for the economy, the surge in gun sales on the same day is an indication that many Americans don’t feel the optimism. Things are bad everywhere and they are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Black Friday gun sales are proof that this commentator is not alone in his prognostication.