Gun sales fall as gun control stalls

declining gun sales
Overall gun sales are dropping compared to the frenzied activity of last year, but handguns are growing in popularity.

Americans aren't stockpiling assault rifles like they used to, which is why gun sales have fallen sharply from a year ago.

Sales dropped 7.6% through the end of June, compared to the first half of last year, according to CRT Research.

Gun enthusiasts simply aren't as worried about new federal gun restrictions going into effect, the way they were in 2013, so there is a lot less urgency for people to run out and buy assault weapons while they still can.

President Obama tried to pass a gun bill last year that would have restricted military-style semiautomatic rifles, but the legislation failed in the Senate.

"The number one driver in this sector, for the big sales spikes, has been fear - fear of legislation," said CRT analyst Brian Ruttenbur.

But the industry is still strong, says Ruttenbur.

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Gunmakers like Smith & Wesson (SWHC) and Colt say that while rifle sales are dropping, sales of handguns are climbing.

Ruttenbur said this is partly because more people are applying for concealed carry permits, which allow them to carry concealed handguns in public places. Handguns are also popular among the growing demographic of women.

"Women don't want a Dirty Harry magnum," said Ruttenbur. "They want a pretty little gun that fits into a pocket book along with their cell phone."

Ruttenbur said that CRT derives its information from the background checks that the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducts when a consumer buys a gun. Background checks -- which include people who already own guns but are seeking an additional concealed carry permit -- have dropped about 5% in the first half of this year, compared to 2013, according to the FBI.

Related: Pink is the new black for women with guns

The record month for background checks was December 2012, when the FBI conducted nearly 2.8 millIion checks. That's the month that 26 children and educators were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

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