The chorus of angry, disillusioned voices calling for firearms manufacturers to stop producing AR15 and AK47-style rifles may not appear to be doing gun sales any favors. At this juncture, they’re not. Although mass shootings have previously resulted in soaring purchases for so-called “black rifles,” in recent years, gun sales have tanked.
Primarily, of course, the difference is President Trump. During the previous Obama administration, American citizens rightfully had concerns that their Second Amendment rights would be curtailed. Certainly, Obama himself didn’t ease those fears one bit. However, Trump has positioned himself as a friend of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and thus, the pressing need to purchase guns evaporated with his election.
I previously thought that firearms manufacturers, such as publicly-traded companies Smith & Wesson (under the American Outdoor Brands Corp. brand) and Ruger, would actually thrive under Trump and Republican rule. My argument at the time was that Americans spiked up gun sales during Obama’s “fear trade.” As such, those guns had to be used – and as we all know, the shooting sports are incredibly addictive.
That addictiveness, though, hasn’t translated to increased gun sales or even range memberships and other associated purchases. Instead, the inventory merely shifted away from the books of firearms manufacturers into the homes of everyday Americans scared into buying something they ordinarily wouldn’t. This economic activity boost gave the false impression that firearms manufacturers would sustain the momentum. The facts tell a different story.
Last month, Remington, one of the most iconic firearms manufacturers, filed for bankruptcy, citing “difficult industry conditions.” Shares of both Smith & Wesson and Ruger are down in the dumps. While few political groups are expressly calling for the removal of the Second Amendment, American liberties are threatened due to apathy.
But this condition cannot be blamed entirely on the consumer. In large part, firearms manufacturers, and gun shops in particular, are responsible for their own decline. When they saw the chance to do so, they aggressively deployed fear tactics to artificially pump up gun sales. Now that Republicans control the government, the marketing message has fallen on deaf ears.
Take a look at California, one of the most repressive states for the Second Amendment. In December 2016, just prior to new restrictive laws going into effect, over 93,000 long guns were sold, likely most of them AR-15s. In January of this year, fewer than 23,000 long guns rang up the cash registers.
To be blunt, firearms manufacturers and the entire gun industry overmilked the cash cow. Now, the market has way too much supply, and not enough demand. Blaming Trump or lazy Americans is only half the story.