US gun manufacturers have produced over 70 million firearms since 2008, quickly escalating the production of rifles and the types of semiautomatic weapons used in recent mass shootings, according to data from the US government and gun industry.
In 2016, the latest year for which data is available, firearms companies sharply increased production, building 11.5 million guns, in part due to a belief that the Democratic Party would win the presidential election that year and curtail access to semiautomatic weapons such as the AR-15 rifle.
American companies have produced more than 150 million firearms since 1986, according to the “Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report” published each year by the US Justice Department.
The vast majority of all US-produced firearms were sold domestically, the Justice Department said.
The data also shows periodic spikes of production and firearm sales when there’s the possibility of new federal gun-control policies.
Remington Arms Company, one of America’s largest gun manufacturers, reported sales of firearms reached $437.8 million in 2016, up 16.7 percent from the year before.
The company said sales of “modern sporting rifles,” which includes firearms like the AR-15, increased $34.2 million that year, though it didn’t provide aggregate sales figures for this style.
The two biggest years for gun production in recent history took place in 2013 and 2016, when intense debates about whether Democrats would be able to curb access to firearms.
“Gun lovers have been convinced that their right to buy guns in general, or particular types of guns, would be taken away by the politicians and they better hurry up and get whatever guns they have considered obtaining,” said Philip Cook, professor emeritus of public policy studies at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Gun sales dropped sharply in early 2017, after US President Donald Trump and the Republican Party -- which oppose to gun control -- took full control of government, according to sales figures from several large gun manufacturers.
To deal with last year’s falling demand, many gun companies and retailers offered steep discounts and rebates on firearms to lure more buyers.
The report comes as the National Rifle Association (NRA), a powerful gun lobby in the US, has come under increasing pressure following the mass shooting at a high school in Florida earlier this month.
Nikolas Cruz, an ex-student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, opened fire with an AR-15-style assault rifle on February 14, killing 17 people and injuring 14 more in his former school.
It was also the 18th school shooting since January 1 in the United States, which loses around 33,000 people to gun violence every year.