In recent corporate presentations, leading gun makers celebrated the fact that consumers bought more firearms because of the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino. And, prior to the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Saturday night, executives were telling investors to expect another big bump — because of the upcoming elections.
The surge in sales after mass shootings, as we’ve reported, is nothing new: Mass shootings lead to talk of gun control; the National Rifle Association — the gun advocacy group funded significantly by gun and ammunition manufacturers — uses its influence in Congress to block any legislative action; but gun owners, irrationally terrified that the government will restrict or ban firearms, rush out to buy more guns and ammo.
Sturm, Ruger & Co. Chief Executive Michael Fifer, speaking at his company’s annual meeting in May, noted that his company — the largest handgun manufacturer in the U.S. — saw a spike in demand that “was strongly correlated to the tragic terrorist activities in Paris and San Bernardino.” Sales eventually slowed down, but Fifer called that a “big opportunity for the distributors to step up and take on inventory” to be ready for election-related sales.
In February, on an investor conference call, Fifer had predicted that “we’ll see a step up of demand if a Democrat wins” the presidency. And if Democrats win control of the Senate, he added, gun sales will increase dramatically based on fears that a more liberal Supreme Court might restrict gun rights.
Stephen Nolan, executive vice president of Vista Outdoors, a gun distributor, said the election cycle might drive a “mini surge” in sales. Nolan, speaking at the RBC Capital Markets conference earlier this month, noted that “political reaction to the tragedy in San Bernardino” and the talk of “further gun control” appeared to drive recent sales.
Smith & Wesson Chief Executive P. James Debney, speaking at the UBS Global Consumer Conference in March, explained that recent terrorist attacks had pushed firearms “back into the world of politics, talking about increasing legislation in gun control,” which “no doubt” encouraged “a very strong buying period.” He speculated that the election cycle might be having an effect as well.
Following the mass killing on Saturday evening, a number of legislators stepped up calls for gun control legislation. “Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., in a statement.
But there is little hope for meaningful gun control legislation this year.
Meanwhile, as CNBC reports, “Shares of gunmakers Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger rose 9.8 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, in premarket trading Monday following the massacre in Orlando, Florida.”