Fear and Loathing at the Local Gun Store

Back in the day, I hung out with a guy who sold time shares. Mr. X used to talk about leading lambs to the slaughter. “OK, you got a guy who’s a hanging chad. He wants to buy. He doesn’t want to buy. So you stop in the middle of your pitch. Just like that. You say ‘Oh shit!’ The customer says ‘what?’ ‘I can’t believe this! My colleague just sold that time share. Look, I’m so sorry I wasted your time.’ No matter what he says you tell him nope, he can’t have it. It’s sold. You hang up. Ten minutes later you call him back with the good news. ‘I’ve worked something out with my colleague. But you gotta buy it now.’ Works like a charm.” And there you have it: the great post-Obama re-election gun buying panic of 2012 . . .

Conventional wisdom says the firearm industry’s experiencing a major sales surge because gun buyers are loathing the Obama administration. Consumers are afraid that they won’t be able to buy “assault rifles,” “high-capacity magazines” and shoulder thingies that go up in the near future. Heretofore politically shackled gun grabbers will reinstate the Clinton-era Assault Weapons Ban and . . . worse.

As our man Foghorn has pointed out, there’s little evidence that an assault weapons ban is imminent. What’s more (or less), fans of products targeted by gun control advocates still have considerable Congressional protection from prohibition.

Most hard-core gun buyers know that their gun rights aren’t in peril. Any more than usual. Yet. Which means the current sales surge isn’t entirely or even mostly down to politics. I reckon it’s plain old-fashioned panic buying.

Like the time share marks fooled by faux scarcity, American gun buyers have become convinced that the “good stuff” is in short supply. Whether or not a ban is coming, they’re panicked by the idea that they can’t get what they want right now. And the more they come to believe that someone else is buying something they can’t, the more they want to buy it.

Not to coin a phrase, but TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia is better than that. They know how to keep calm, carry on and avoid inflated prices and OCD credit card drain. All they have to do: separate need from want.

Need is based on rational thought. Do gun buyers actually need a dozen [more] high-capacity magazines or another couple of ARs? I suspect not. I’d bet dollars to donuts that gun owners who own a more-than-two high-cap mags and at least one “assault rifle” have already thought through their prepping needs, and prepped accordingly.

It’s not that hard. Provided it’s clean and dry, ammo shelf life is measured in decades. With a little TLC, today’s guns will be good to go in the roaring ’20s—and beyond. Equally, anyone with a lick of common sense knows that another AR or the ability to carry an “extra” 30 cartridges isn’t going to make the difference between life and death in any SHTF scenario you can imagine.

OK, not imagine. Make that “realistically conceive.” And while there’s nothing wrong with laying in supplies for an extended emergency of some kind, it’s worth noting that there isn’t one in effect at the moment. Unless you’re in New Jersey. In which case, how many guns and high-capacity magazines do you need? Looters or not, I’d rather have a working generator and a can of gas than a spare AR or a belt-load of Surefire 60-round mags.

As far as “want” is concerned, buyers should keep in mind that it’s all in their mind. At the risk of alienating an industry exploiting OFWG fear and loathing, there’s a lot of happiness to be found in wanting what you already have. In other words, gun owners feeling the onset of a gun buying panic attack should spend a little quality time with their current arsenal. Re-organize their ammo. Chill.

This gun buying panic will subside in a few months. That said, sales of ammo, mags and guns in the “potentially threatened” category will continue to remain steady; gun law liberalization and increasing cultural acceptance ( by Gen COD) guarantee that gun newbies will continue to sustain firearms sales. And they’ll want the cool shit.

Meanwhile, there’s no reason to bitch about rising prices or, indeed, “price gouging.” While it may pain us personally, the more money flowing into the firearms industry the better it is for all of us. If we have the free market on our side, and we do, we can’t lose. At least in theory.