2017-03-06 15:41:51 UTC
Gun sales have dropped since Trumps election, except among
people scared of his administration.
BOSSIER CITY, La. Sales of guns and ammunition in the United
States have dropped precipitously since Election Day, according
to FBI statistics, trade groups, gun shop owners and corporate
reports, what many say is the result of electing a president
who has vowed to protect gun rights.
But that overall decline has been accompanied by some unusual
growth: Gun clubs and shops that cater to black and LGBT
clients say there has been an uptick in interest in firearms
since November among those who fear that racial and gender-
based violence could increase during Donald Trumps presidency.
The slowdown in gun purchases, which came at the end of a
record sales year, is due in part to promises that Trump and
the Republican Congress made to expand gun rights. Firearms
enthusiasts and salesmen said Trumps victory removed the sense
of urgency to buy that some felt under President Barack Obama,
who tried to ban the sale of assault-style weapons.
[Senior ATF official proposes loosening gun regulations]
At Rons Guns here, along the Red River in the northwest corner
of Louisiana, owner Gene Mock stocked up on inventory,
anticipating that Democrat Hillary Clinton would win the
presidency and continue the push for an assault weapons ban.
Sales the week before the election were among the most brisk
the shop had ever seen.
But now that Trump, who has the full backing of the National
Rifle Association, is president, fewer customers are buying,
and there is a glut of product.
There will be a lot of deals to be had in the near future,
Guns for sale at TargetMaster in Garland, Tex., on March 3.
(Cooper Neill/For The Washington Post)
But Philip Smith, president of the National African American
Gun Association, said his group has seen a recent surge that
appears to be driven by fear that the nations divisive
politics could spiral into violence.
Trump is some of that reason, and rhetoric from other groups
that have been on the fringe, Smith said. Its like being
racist is cool now.
Smith said the group has added more than 7,000 members since
Election Day and new chapters are popping up all over the
country. They include one in Bowie, Md., that started last
month and already has 55 members.
People are scared and rightfully so, said Stephen Yorkman,
who founded the Maryland chapter. They feel better if they at
least learn how to shoot a firearm or own one.
Nationwide, overall gun sales are trending downward after
record highs during the Obama administration. According to the
FBI, background checks, which are conducted at the request of
licensed firearm dealers and retailers when they make sales,
dropped from 3.3 million in December 2015 to 2.8 million in
December 2016. In January 2017, there were 2 million background
checks performed, compared with 2.5 million in January 2016.
[Gun silencers are hard to buy. Donald Trump Jr. and silencer
makers want to change that]
Gun manufacturer stocks also have dipped, with shares of Sturm,
Ruger & Co., tumbling nearly 24 percent since Nov. 8, and
American Outdoor Brand the renamed Smith & Wesson dropping
32 percent. Vista Outdoors, which includes Savage firearms and
two ammunition lines, saw its share price sink by 50 percent
since January, according to Rommel Dionisio, a managing
director for the private equity firm Wunderlich.
Sales of the semiautomatic sporting rifles that Obama and
Clinton wanted to ban have slowed the most since the election,
said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of
the Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun
In an earnings call last month, Christopher Killoy, the
president and chief operating officer of Sturm, Ruger & Co.,
said sales of these guns peaked before the election, leading
retailers to stock products which likely wouldve been in
stronger demand if the election had turned out differently.
Now the surplus and decreased customer demand has made for a
more challenging sell-through environment, he said.
Keane said the industry is used to seeing spikes in demand
based on political rhetoric, both nationally and on the state
level. Slowdowns typically occur after the holidays, he said,
and sales were so brisk in 2016 that the industry did not think
they were sustainable.
Yes, were coming off the peaks in demand, but the valley
floor is higher, he said.
Trump, who once praised Obamas appeal for gun control in the
wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre in 2012 and
supported a ban on assault weapons, has rapidly transformed
into a pro-gun advocate.
Trump has a concealed carry permit in New York and during the
campaign called for making the permits applicable nationwide.
He also has suggested abolishing gun and magazine bans and
vowed to appoint pro-gun justices to the U.S. Supreme Court,
calling the Second Amendment under absolute siege. In
February he repealed an Obama-era measure to bar gun sales to
certain mentally ill people.
Pistols for sale at TargetMaster in Garland, Tex., on March 3.
(Cooper Neill/For The Washington Post)
At the TargetMaster gun store and shooting range in Garland,
Tex., shop owner Tom Mannewitz stood behind wood-framed glass
counters displaying handguns. A wooden plaque reading GOD
BLESS TEXAS and trophy animals adorned the walls.
Mannewitz is glad Obama is out of office but acknowledges that
the Democrat was great for business: The store recorded 8
percent growth last year and sold record amounts of AR-15s
during his presidency. The numbers bear his perceptions out: In
October 2008, the month before Obamas election, the FBI
processed 1.2 million background checks. In November, the FBI
performed 2.6 million background checks.
Ahead of a possible Clinton win and an expected panic buy
wave, Mannewitz prepared for customers rushing to stores and
emptying shelves for items that had the potential to fall under
a possible ban: AR-15s, high-capacity magazines and large
quantities of ammunition. It never came, and the extra six-
month supply of ammunition that he had amassed hoping to sell
it all in 60 days is still sitting on his shelves.
Mannewitz, who has sold firearms since 1979, has ridden out
dips in the gun market before and thinks that demand will
soften but not stop.
In bad times, when people are fearful of their safety, they
buy guns, he said. In good times, they buy nicer guns.
In Cleveland, gun dealer Kevin Jones is seeing the opposite:
Trump has been better for sales than Obama, an increase driven
by people who want to protect themselves from potential
A lot of people are afraid of this administration and afraid
of what this kind of started, he said. Whether its perceived
or true, a lot of people feel that theres a lot more racially
oriented violence out there right now.
Jones said that after the election he got into a racially
charged altercation for the first time in years. He was driving
and had to move to another lane when another driver did the
same. Jones said the other driver, an older white man, leaned
out of his car and started shouting racial epithets. He
followed Jones for about a mile, shouting the n-word.
The men got out of their cars and Jones drew his firearm,
keeping it by his side. The situation de-escalated, but Jones
felt safer carrying a gun.
To be honest, at that point I was thankful that I did have my
firearm with me, he said.
Bullet casings rest on the floor of the shooting range at
TargetMaster in Garland, Tex. (Cooper Neill/For The Washington
Jan Morgan tapped her hot pink nails on the black holster
carrying her 9mm Heckler & Koch sidearm and said she also
thinks Trump will be good for business, but for a very
Morgan owns a shooting range in Hot Springs, Ark., and believes
her private firearms instructions classes are packed every
weekend because Americans are concerned about the possibility
of terrorist attacks on home soil. Morgan is particularly
suspicious of criminally minded refugees. She declared her
shooting range a Muslim-free zone a few years ago, which made
her a viral sensation on conservative websites and also brought
her to the attention of the FBIs counterterrorism unit, which
said she had been declared a target of opportunity by the
For Gwendolyn Patton, Trumps victory has her caught in the
middle: Some members of her LGBT shooting organization, the
Pink Pistols, are thrilled to have a gun-friendly president.
But many new members are terrified that Trump will roll back
gay rights and feel they must learn how to defend themselves.
Suddenly theyre buying guns, she said. The rhetoric has
Patton said her organization saw an uptick in membership last
year after a gunman killed 49 people in an Orlando gay
nightclub. Interest also boomed after the election, and new
chapters are opening.
One side didnt perceive despotism under Obama and they do
under Trump, Patton said, noting that there is this new
contingent of LGBT people who have decided that they have been
mugged by the election.
A customer hands another member of his group a box of
ammunition at the Maryland Small Arms Range in Upper Marlboro,
Md., on March 4. (J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post)
Yorkman and Brown said they have seen the biggest rise in
interest from black women. According to a 2014 survey from the
Pew Research Center, 19 percent of black households surveyed
said they have a gun, rifle or pistol in their home, compared
with 15 percent the year before.
But some black gun owners are concerned about the safety of
owning a gun, pointing to the death of Philando Castile.
Castile, who was licensed to carry a gun, was shot and killed
during a traffic stop in Minnesota last year despite telling
the officer he had the proper permitting. The killing was
broadcast on Facebook Live, and the officer who shot Castile
was charged with manslaughter.
Yorkman said he wants to change the stigma that people have
when they see black people carrying guns. He also wants to let
his community know that they have the right to defend
themselves, particularly in this political climate.
They have a concern with whats going on nationally when they
see certain groups feeling more energized now to spew hate, he
said. You have young mothers with their kids who want to be
comfortable with any environment that theyre in.
Shapiro reported from Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Zezima
reported from Washington. Ann E. Marimow in Washington
contributed to this report.