This has long been the goal of the gun industry: to expand the demographics of its client base beyond rifle-toting hunters to include more women and others with a desire to conceal palm-sized weapons for self-protection.
“You’re now selling to the little old Catholic nun, the person who never in their life has owned a gun,” said Brian Rafn, a recently retired gun industry analyst from Morgan Dempsey whose family owns shares in Sturm, Ruger. “These are people who have never shot guns before.”
Rafn said it is the fear of lawlessness – depicted in reports of homicides in cities and clashes between protesters and law enforcement officers – that is driving new buyers to gun stores. President Trump is using this perception of lawlessness as a tool in his campaign for re-election.
Mass shootings during the Barack Obama presidency spurred record-breaking sales as the campaign heated up between Trump and Hillary Clinton, who was planning more restrictive gun control. Trump, endorsed by the National Rifle Association, won the election instead of Clinton, and gun sales immediately plunged.
Mass shootings, while they spurred sales, sometimes dragged down stocks because “each event represents a renewed call for regulation,” according to a 2017 paper by Brad Greenwood of George Mason University and Anandasivam Gopal of the University of Maryland. But during the pandemic, stock prices are rising in tandem with gun sales. Sturm, Ruger and Smith & Wesson have gained significantly since March.
Greenwood said that even with the civil unrest from the murder of George Floyd spreading across the country, there is no longer a substantial fear of gun regulation as there was with mass shootings. He said this allows gun makers to “reap an economic windfall” without worrying about losing longer-term profits.
Gopal said that gun control will take a back seat to the pandemic and the economy.
“Even if the Democrats do win the Presidency this November, it appears that gun regulation may not be the first thing they will tackle, given the other things that require immediate attention,” said Gopal.
– Aaron Smith in Covid-19 and Civil Unrest Fuel Comeback for Gun Industry