The firearm industry may well be viewing the Trump administration as a mixed bag right about now. On the one hand, there’s less likelihood of gun control being passed by Congress and signed by the president than there was during the Obama era, which means there’s less chance of having their product lines declared illegal overnight. That’s good.
On the other hand, the lack of that threat has made it so that buyers are less pressured to buy a gun right now than they were just a few years ago. As a result, sales have dropped. And the drop was still more last year.
U.S. firearms sales fell 6.1 percent in 2018, according to industry data reported on Tuesday, marking the second straight year of declines and extending the “Trump slump” following the November 2016 election of pro-gun rights President Donald Trump.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated 2018 sales at 13.1 million firearms, down from 14 million the previous year and down 16.5 percent from record 2016 sales of 15.7 million.
A previous boom that saw gun sales double over a decade through 2016 corresponded largely with Democratic President Barack Obama’s time in office, when fears that gun control laws would be enacted drove gun aficionados to stock up.
Industry representatives attributed the subsequent decline to a market correction as well as politics.
“Obama was the best-selling president for guns. Every time he opened his mouth,” said Trisha Kinney, owner of Blue Collar Firearms in Colton, California.
She isn’t wrong.
The truth is that the lack of pressure has many gun buyers sitting and waiting. It’s easy to understand the thinking. Guns are expensive items, after all. Even a cheap one is a fair bit of money, which means that many are hesitant to pull the trigger on a gun purchase without careful consideration.
During the Obama years, the threat of a gun ban loomed in the back of people’s minds. That pressured many to act quickly to buy their guns before the government could declare them illegal or implement some other new regulation that would get in the way of them getting their firearm. Even if there were no proposals under discussion, that threat still played in their mind.
Now, there’s no such threat.
While Democrats control the House and are planning an entire slate of gun control regulations, almost all of which will pass that chamber, there is a Republican-controlled Senate and White House left to block those regulations. That minimizes much of the pressure. Further, that Democrat-controlled House wasn’t a factor until earlier this month, so there was even less reason to be concerned.
It’s possible that the push by the Democrats for gun control will spark a resurgence in gun sales, but I’m not overly optimistic of that. After all, as noted, there are still sizeable hurdles any new regulations would have to get past before ever becoming a burden on ordinary Americans. In other words, folks don’t see gun control as all that likely despite the Democrats’ best efforts.
Can’t say that I blame them.
The bad news is that the firearm industry may see still more of a slump in 2019 unless something changes.