Trumping Gun Sales

Come back Mr. Obama.  All is forgiven.  Sincerely, your friends at the NRA.

Okay, I made that up.  It’s not true.  The NRA has never said that to the former president.

But they might be thinking it.

The fact is that simply by being elected, Donald Trump has already done more to depress gun sales in America than Obama did during the eight years of his presidency.

The reason is simple; Barack Obama was the best gun salesman the NRA ever had.

Most businesses rise and fall on the basic principles of economics: consumer confidence, interest rates, supply and demand, etc.   But in America, gun sales have tended to spike during periods of fear.

During the Obama years there was plenty of fear to go around.  Fear of ammo shortages.  Fear of terrorist attacks.  But above all, the fear that somehow your right to buy whatever kind of gun you want would soon by curtailed.

The fear began immediately after Obama’s election as radio commentators assured us that one of the new president’s first acts would be to severely restrict gun ownership.  Which, as you know, didn’t happen.

But a few years later came the mass shootings in Sandy Hook, San Bernadino, and Orlando.  A combined 94 people dead and 75 wounded.

The gun control talk in Washington got slightly more serious.  Gun sales soared.  A month following the Orlando shooting, Fortune magazine reported nationwide gun sales were up 40% from a year earlier.

Then came the 2016 presidential campaign with Donald Trump saying that gun rights in America were under siege.  The campaign line was one of many that stuck, and Trump was elected president.

So far the post-election results haven’t been pretty for the gun industry.  With the Republicans running the show, the perceived threats to gun ownership are gone. And with the drop in threats has come a drop in sales.   Since the election last November, the stock value of Sturm, Ruger & Co. is down about 25%.  American Outdoor Brands, the new name for Smith and Wesson, is down about 35%.

Of course not everyone buys guns out of fear.  But there are many who do as a reaction to perceived threats from terrorists or politicians.  For them, the stockpiling of weapons is not just for personal protection but also as a way to make a political statement.

This is well understood by the NRA. In 2013, the group’s America’s First Freedom magazine asserted that “millions of Americans are using market forces…to demonstrate their ardent support for our firearm freedoms.  That’s one of the very best ways we can stand and fight…we will buy more guns than ever.”

Whether you agree with the premise of that statement or not, you can’t help but be impressed with it as a marketing tactic.  In America, when you can successfully link buying your product to an act of patriotism you’ve tapped the marketing mother lode.

Like you, I am a gun owner.  I don’t have an arsenal, but my wife and I own a couple of rifles.  I’m all in favor of the Second Amendment.  And I’m sure gun sales will bounce back eventually.  I just hope that it doesn’t take another act of terror to make it happen.  But I admit I find it ironic that for now the greatest threat to the financial success of the gun industry has turned out to be the man and the party most securely in its corner.

But the gun industry news isn’t all bad.  At a recent speech to the NRA, President Trump made it clear his government will work hard to roll back restrictions on silencer sales and access to guns by the mentally disabled.  Good times lie ahead.

Oh, by the way, there is one group of Americans who are now buying more guns, not less.  FOX News reports gun sales are way up among the sellers that cater to black, Hispanic and LGBT customers.  They say they’re afraid of what the future holds for them.

Which, when you think of it, sounds sort of familiar.

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