Who's buying guns?

Ken Silverstein poses an interesting question on his blog at Harper’s: Who’s Buying Guns? He notes that stock of Smith & Wesson is way up and so are gun sales, spurred, annecdotally, by fears over the Obama administration.

Silverstein also suggests that the NRA has stoked these fears with an advertising campaign that notes Obama has indicated support for a 500 percent tax on guns. In 1999, when he was in the Illinois state senate, Obama did show support for such a tax but he hasn’t said much about it lately, according to factcheck.org.

Gun maker Remington notes in its 10-K (via) report that fear is good for business:

Management believes that despite the challenges in the banking industry, the resulting stock market drop, unstable fuel prices and the ensuing government bailout, we have experienced no significant adverse impact in our overall sales. We believe the overall market for our products picked up subsequent to the U.S. Presidential election and we believe this is attributable to consumer concerns that the new administration could ban and regulate certain guns and ammunition in a more restrictive manner.

The key word here is “certain” guns.  Remington isn’t publicly traded so it doesn’t break out details on its sales but Smith & Wesson is traded publicly and it reported this in its 10Q report of Oct. 31, 2008:

Sales of our M&P 15 rifles were $8,654,385 for the three months ended October 31, 2008, a $6,534,882, or 308.3%, increase over the three months ended October 31, 2007. M&P 15 sales were helped by a consumer promotion as well as what appears to have been speculation on the outcome of the presidential election. On the law enforcement side, 204 police and security agencies to date have either selected the M&P 15 or approved the M&P 15 for on-duty use. The backlog for tactical rifles was $5,988,418 at October 31, 2008. (emphasis added)

No other category of Smith & Wesson firearms was up as much as the tactical rifle category. Notably, sales of hunting rifles and shotguns fell. If hunters feared losing their guns under the Obama administration they would have bought more hunting rifles and shotguns from S&W, not less.

The ones who were doing the buying here were the hardcore gun lovers, who were worried that they wouldn’t be able to buy a military-style rifle like the M&P 15 once the Obama administration got in.

For the three months ending January 31, 2009, which covers gun sales after Obama was elected, Smith & Wesson reported that total firearms sales were up 11 percent to 219 million.

Once again, tactical rifles again led the way with a 108 percent increase in sales.  Hunting firearms, however were down again nearly 36 percent.

Gun sales are up, but it seems like hunters — the core of the NRA’s membership — are just fine with Obama. Those who fear our new president are the black helicopter types, the kind of folks who shelled out $22 million to buy an update on the old military-tested AR-15.

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