New Laws Are Leading to Surge in Gun Sales
“Stand Your Ground” laws, which have come under fire as a possible factor in the Florida shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, may be having another impact, too — helping fuel a surge in gun sales.
Gun buyers swamped retailers nationwide last year, prompting a record 16.4 million instant criminal background checks of potential owners, up 14.2 percent from 2010, according to FBI figures. While some buyers may not have followed through with gun purchases or may have been denied, others bought more than one, so background checks are considered a good proxy for sales in the industry.
On Wednesday, gun maker Sturm, Ruger & Co. announced the company was forced to temporarily suspend its acceptance of any new firearms orders due to a barrage of wholesale orders — more than 1 million in 2012 alone. Last year the company shipped a total of 1.1 million firearms. This massive push “exceeds our capacity to rapidly fulfill these orders,” the Connecticut company said in a news release, adding that it expects to resume normal operations by the end of May.
While “no true stats” exist reflecting actual U.S. gun purchases, Ginger Coudens, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms pointed to a report the agency published last year citing a significant spike in gun manufacturing. According to the report, 5.5 million firearms were manufactured in 2009 (the most recent year for which such figures are available) — 1 million more than in 2008, and the highest number since at least 1986. A rise was seen in all four primary categories: pistols, revolvers, rifles and shotguns.
“There’s a reason: Because they’re selling. They aren’t just sitting on the shelf if they’re being manufactured,” Coudens said.
Relaxed gun laws are likely a factor behind the boom in sales, although not the only reason and perhaps not the primary one, industry experts say.
Many point to fears stoked by gun-rights advocates that President Barack Obama, if elected to a second term, will push legislation to rein in gun ownership.
Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer of the powerful National Rifle Association, told a meeting of conservatives last month that the president’s gun strategy is “crystal clear,” saying that Obama wants to “get re-elected and, with no more elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms’ freedom, erase the Second Amendment.”
Jim Barrett, an analyst at CL King & Associates, an independent investment research firm who tracks the gun industry, said both the Obama factor and gun laws are at play.
“You have conceal-carry laws being enacted by more and more states. That tends to spark an immediate jump in gun ownership in those states,” he said.