President-elect Donald Trump is expected to push to relax gun laws when he takes office, but significant changes in the firearms industry began as soon as he was elected – and some put the law of unintended consequences squarely in the cross hairs.
For instance, while Trump’s unapologetic pro-Second Amendment stance may be good for gun owners, it has already dealt a blow to manufacturers, who enjoyed record sales throughout President Obama’s eight years in office. Stocks in companies like Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. plunged on Nov. 9, and experts say it is because Trump’s election erased fears that guns would become harder to get.
“A lot of people were buying guns simply because they were worried Hillary Clinton’s regulations would make it more costly and more difficult to buy guns, and people are not going to feel quite the need to go out and buy guns now,” Crime Prevention Research Center President John Lott told FoxNews.com. “I think the stock market is a pretty good predictor of what’s going to happen, and the fact that you see drops in stock prices by almost 20 percentage points –I think that’s pretty significant.”
While the government does not publish an official number of gun sales, background checks, a gauge of how many people try to buy guns, skyrocketed under President Obama. In 2008, 12.71 million background checks were conducted, a number on pace to double this year, to set an all-time record.
The prospect of a pro-gun control administration of Hillary Clinton following Obama, together with a campaign that put gun rights in the spotlight, was the likely driver of the firearms boom, acknowledged Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. But he was skeptical that a rise in 2016 gun sales or an anticipated dip in the coming year will have a major effect on crime.
“Gun violence is obviously a complicated issue and doesn’t just turn around because of a month or two of different sales,” Horwitz said. “There are so many guns in America that a blip in the sales rate is not going to change the death and injury rate in any meaningful fashion, and it’s just too early to tell.”
The weekend following Trump’s election, arms vendors from all over the country set up their exhibits in Oklahoma for the semi-annual Wanenmacher’s Tulsa Arms Show, the largest gun and knife show in the world. Show founder Joe Wanenmacher told FoxNews.com sales were steady, but would’ve been through the roof if Clinton had won.
“Had Secretary Clinton been elected, it would have been panic sales, because gun shows were in her sights to either be eliminated, or make it so difficult to sell that they wouldn’t be effective,” Wanenmacher said. “When there is complacency, there isn’t the motive to buy guns in anticipation of something bad happening.”
One attendee agreed.
“I think if Trump hadn’t won, it would have been chaos,” she said. “It was a relaxed atmosphere and everyone was upbeat.”
Fear of new gun control laws was not the only sales driver in recent years, said National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman Mike Bazinet. He said local crime also spurred people to buy guns, and does not expect that factor to diminish in the near future.
“There is no question that the concern over political situations over the past several years, where people may have feared additional restrictions of access to firearms was a motivator, but it wasn’t the only one,” Bazinet said. “Our retailers tell us that a more important factor is local crime.”
Trump has said he intends to work with state and local governments to repeal gun-free zones, do away with the special tax on silencers, encourage expansion of conceal carry laws and carry out a host of other pro-gun industry initiatives. Advocates of gun control say such measures will put more people at risk of becoming victims of gun violence, but Trump and other Second Amendment stalwarts disagree.
“If you get rid of gun-free zones and make it easier for people to carry, you will deter criminals,” Lott told Fox News. “You will be able to reduce crime.”
The irony is that an administration more sympathetic to the gun industry could hurt its bottom line.
“There is no doubt that the firearms industry will not be treated as a social disease by the Trump Administration,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told Fox News. “The president-elect will make the Second Amendment great again.”