Both guns and ammunition sales have dropped significantly since the election of Donald Trump. The trend is being reported by a wide variety of groups – gun store owners, trade groups, the organizers of trade shows, and even the latest FBI statistics.
It seems, though, that this is not a reflection of a decline in enthusiasm for owning guns. Quite the opposite. Most of those reporting a drop in sales are saying that this is due to Trump’s open stance towards gun legislation.
Though Trump has not explicitly put forward any policy relating to gun legislation, during his election campaign he vowed to protect gun rights. In the absence of any definite detail, many gun enthusiasts are taking this as a promise that there will be no new restrictions on owning and using guns during the tenure of our new president.
Some felt a huge urgency to buy guns under Obama’s tenure. The constant attempt by that administration to limit the right to buy and own assault-style weapons meant that fans of these guns, or merely those who use them on a regular basis, felt that they had to stock up. Accordingly, during the closing period of the last administration, AR-15 sales peaked. For this group of gun owners, the election of Trump has removed some of the incentive to plan ahead with their gun purchases, and sales have therefore decreased.
According to the FBI, who deal with the background checks requested by licensed firearm dealers when they sell weapons, requests for checks dropped from 3.3 million per month in December 2015 to 2.8 million in December 2016. In January 2017, there were 2 million checks performed, versus 2.5 million in January 2016.
Shares in gun manufacturers have also dropped. Sturm, Ruger & Co.’s value has tumbled nearly 24 per cent since November, and American Outdoor Brand’s shares are now down 32 per cent over the same period. Investors in these companies clearly believe that the decline in demand for firearms is likely to continue for some time.
There is, however, an exception to this trend. Gun stores, shows, and organizations which cater primarily to black and LGBT clients have reported the opposite phenomenon – gun sales, and interest in guns more generally, increasing. Commentators have suggested that these groups feel alienated, and in some cases directly threatened, by Trump’s rhetoric, and are arming themselves in response.
New gun owners should always be welcomed, of course, no matter their political stance. Learning how to safely own and use a firearm is a great advantage to anyone. Yet some fear that guns bought from fear might contribute to a growing sense of unease in the US.
More generally, the decline in guns sales is causing some problems in the industry. Back a year ago, most people assumed that Hillary would win the election, including the owners of gun stores and those who organize gun shows. They expected a Democrat-led administration to finally pass the restrictive legislation that the party had been talking about for so long, and so stocked up on assault-style weapons.
The surprise victory of Trump, and the more liberal attitude towards firearms that the new administration appears to have, has left many gun stores with a glut of product. This is, of course, good news for some of us. If you’ve been thinking of getting a new AR-15 variant, now might be the time, because with so many on the market many stores are selling these weapons at a discounted rate.
On the other hand, the general decline in gun sales is likely to hit smaller businesses hard. This will perhaps further a trend that has been all too apparent in recent years – the extinction of the local, independent, gun store. Too many of these businesses have already closed across the US, and a decline in demand is the last thing that those remaining need.
The answer, for those of us who care about our local gun store, or about our right to carry weapons in general, is obvious. In fact, though it seems that fewer people want to buy guns now than last year, this has actually created a perfect situation for those of us who are really serious about our guns.
This is because assault-style weapons are now cheaper than ever, it seems that the new administration is not going to restrict our right to own these weapons anytime soon, and by investing in one we can also help out our local gun store in these difficult times.