Growth in First-Time Gun Sales Has Election Implications

More than a decade ago, my wife gave me – as a Christmas gift – a single share of stock for Ruger, a leading American gun manufacturer.  She gave our kids stock, too – each company chosen for their own particular interests. It was a great present. 

But this gift led to something unusual.  Ruger issues dividends on a regular basis, and with only a single share of stock to my name, I’d often joke that it cost them more money to send me the dividend than it did to give me the dividend.  Some months this dividend was as low as eighteen cents, but usually it came in at around forty-two cents.  Still it was nice to know that “my company” was profitable.  However, today I got something new, something unprecedented.  I got a dividend check for $5.42 – about ten times the average payment. 

That got me thinking.  Why so much?  Why now?

So I went looking, and found in Forbes, in an article called “Voting With Their Guns, reported that June gun sales were at an all-time record high.  The Washington Free Beacon noted that, in August of this year, there were yet another record number of guns sold – at least 1.6 million guns – which is up 43 percent from August of 2019.  This may be especially significant since virtually all gun shows have been closed by COVID-19, as have gun stores in states which didn’t deem legal gun sales “essential” in a crisis that was tearing at the very foundation of our nation.

Both sources agreed that four factors were involved.  People are worried about the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on our society.  Many people feel they are being besieged by the economic downturn that has left millions unemployed – and with no option of finding jobs.  Riots in the street, which began in June and have yet to abate, coupled with demands that the police be de-funded, are a third reason why first-time gun owners are buying guns.  And finally, millions of Americans are afraid that, if Joe Biden wins in November, they will lose the right to buy – or even own – firearms.  Those millions have been growing rapidly, as so many first-time gun buyers have evaluated the risks and elected to invest serious money into gun purchases and gun training.  And perhaps to support for re-election the President that takes positions which reflect the SecondAmendment and individual Americans’ right to keep and bear arms.

Forbes also noted that the share value of Ruger has advanced by 62 percent during 2020, while Lake Street Capital Markets project Ruger’s annual sales should rise to $568 million dollars, 23 percent higher than they predicted in April, helping to explain my higher-than-expected dividend.

And every month since the COVID-19 issue first hit, new records have been set with the most guns sold, according to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  What’s more, according to the industry’s trade group, the National Shooting Sports Federation, about 40 percent – roughly 650,000 – of these purchasers were first-time gun buyers.  Many of these first-time buyers are from demographics that traditionally did not buy guns.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “urban unrest has sales soaring, especially among blacks.”   

This also means that there were roughly 650,000 Americans – in August alone – who now have some “skin in the game” in the gun-confiscation debate that is a strong dynamic in the upcoming election.  More important to that election, as the WSJ reported, “these record sales are best understood as a referendum on the riots, and the growing lack of confidence many Americans have that police will protect them.  This is more than National Rifle Association spin. In addition, 40 percent of first-time buyers are women, and the National Shooting Sports Federation’s survey of gun retailers reports that sales to black Americans are up 58.2 percent in the first six months of this year.”

That’s significant because these two demographics, along with blue collar voters who traditionally vote as Democrats, are clearly feeling threatened by the danger in the streets. More to the point, they are demographics Trump has been reaching out to, hoping to bring at least some of them into the GOP fold in 2020.  Given that these people have invested in self-protection firearms for a reason, it is reasonable to assume that at least some of these will be reluctant to vote for Biden, given his strong anti-gun status and rhetoric.

Significantly, the anti-gun campaign that was so powerful in much of 2019 has been derailed, as millions of Americans – including millions of them who’d previously supported limitations on personal firearm ownership – have not just changed their tune, but voted with their wallets.

After all, Democrat Joe Biden has made it clear he plans to confiscate so-called “assault weapons,” a term created by the news media which has no clear meaning.  Basically, this term is meant to describe any weapon that “looks military,” even though real military weapons tend to be full-automatic, no different than machine guns or sub-machine guns.  These cosmetically (but not functionally) “military” weapons will be banned and confiscated, while magazine capacity will be held to, well, to hear Biden say it, only single-shot firearms will be permitted, ruling out most rifles and handguns.  

But don’t take my word for it.  Here is what Joe says about his anti-gun platform:  “It’s within our grasp to end our gun violence epidemic and respect the Second Amendment, which is limited.”  Other positions listed on his website include “hold gun manufacturers accountable; get weapons of war off our streets, regulate the possession of existing “assault weapons” (which happen to be the most popular rifles sold in America), buy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in our community, (i.e., forced buybacks – confiscation – headed up by no less doctrinaire gun-grabber than Beto O’Rourke).”

These are just a few of the several dozen policy positions Biden has embraced in his race to the White House.

So what’s the bottom line?  Biden’s plans to confiscate legally-purchased guns is justifiably frightening to gun owners. However, most non-owners of guns don’t feel they have a dog in this fight, and didn’t care what the candidates stood for.  But now, with this incredible surge in first-time gun buyers – each of whom now have a stake in the more confiscatory plans of Biden’s administration – we are looking at a shift that could be sufficient to push Trump across the goal line on the first Tuesday in November.

 

Ned Barnett is a life-long target shooter, who won the Presidential Sports Award for marksmanship in 1970.  He is the owner of Barnett Marketing Communications.  He handled media and strategy for three state-level Presidential campaigns, and has been an activist in working with constitutional conservative candidates for elective office.

Image credit: Pixabay public domain