Gun Sales Fall As America’s Irrational Fears Subside

Last month Smith & Wesson, one of the top gun manufacturers in America, reported a steep drop in sales in its latest quarterly earnings report. Sales plunged more than 10 percent, and forecasts warn of a further decline in the coming year. This was a huge surprise to investors considering that the company is the second largest publicly traded firearms manufacturer in the United States.

Profits came up short due to a decline in “long rifle” guns. More specifically, sales of assault style weapons have seen the most precipitous decline. This coincides with a steep decline in the number of background checks conducted in the early part of this year when compared to the same time last year.

Gun ownership has seen a continuing decline since the 1980s. During that period, nearly 50 percent of all American households owned at least one firearm. Over the next two decades, however, the number of gun owners decreased dramatically, even though firearm sales went up. The trend in fewer owners and more guns continued until 1993, which saw an era of lower crime and, ultimately, a lower fear among the public. Fear is the precipitating factor for gun sales, which showed another spike after the 9/11 terrorists attacks.

With violent crime down overall and fewer gun owners, gun manufacturers were constantly challenged with keeping gun sales up. The National Rifle Association, the lobbying arm of the industry, continues to pressure lawmakers to decrease restrictions on guns and ownership, even when most Americans, including gun owners, believe that these are reasonable requirements for public safety. Then just when things looked bleak, a new kind of fear emerged in 2008.

It was that year the fear of the black president swept (a small part of) the nation.

Believing that the Democratic majority and a popular (black) president would begin a liberal agenda that would confiscate guns from all the “real” Americans, gun “enthusiasts” began buying up assault-style weapons that gun control advocates have long been trying to curtail. Over the next few years, sales of ammunition and guns skyrocketed. In some paranoid circles, it was obvious that the fear was racially based. Rumors on the Internet warned of an impending race war and President Obama secretly creating plans to round up white people and house them in FEMA trailers.

Needless to say, this did not happen.

Sales increased even though the number of owners continued to drop. As of 2012, nearly all of the guns in the United States were concentrated in just over one-third of households – a decline of nearly 20 percent in the past two decades. It is estimated that there are more than 300 million guns in circulation, most of them in the hands of only 34 percent of the population.

The estimated population of the entire United States is 318 million.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, these fears continued, even as more mass shootings headlined the national news. In a rather perverse irony, sales of the weapons used in mass shootings spike after each horrific incidence, again due to the fear that the government would take action to outlaw them. After the deadly school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in December 2012, sales of semi-automatic weapons sky rocketed. For nearly a year, gun stores reported a shortage of the weapons, as well as large capacity ammunition magazines, due to the high demand.

Even then, there was no serious movement on gun control.

While there have been some successful attempts to make the licensing requirements stricter and restricting the amount and types of ammunition sold, nothing has been done to ban specific types of guns in recent years. The Supreme Court has made impossible to eliminate guns, as recent rulings have expanded the Second Amendment to include a right to things like handguns and self defense. Needless to say, the government has not taken anyone’s guns.

It is perhaps due to the lack of movement on gun legislation that sales of guns have gone down. Now that the fear is being proven to be misplaced, these same gun enthusiasts are feeling less of a need to stock up on weapons that are generally best suited for war. Handgun sales are still popular, but gun manufactures, like Smith & Wesson, are seeing a decline in the assault weapons that have been a boon for their bottom line. Fear has been a great motivator for profits.

Only time will tell if this is a market correction after a spike in sales, or if indeed the irrational fears that have gripped the nation has finally subsided…at least for now.

562 comments

Kriss Ite
Kriss Ite3 months ago

I didn't mean to post the last comment I made. >=(

Kriss Ite
Kriss Ite3 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 months ago

thanks for the article.

Kriss Ite
Kriss Ite1 years ago

Debbie, do you hate guns in the hands of military & law enforcement? If they always mean death , then why aren't places like Svalbard (which requires everyone know how to use a rifle against) or Kennesaw (which requires every home to have a gun) as opposed to Mexico city or New York City (both have strict weapon laws) so violent? I see that people cite the U.S. gun ownership rate & blame it for our higher homicide & violence rates. But they rarely think outside the box and consider other variables such as economics, culture, availability of services & so on.

James Harris Jr
James Harris Jr1 years ago

"I hate guns ... are death ... " etc.:

Yup -- ...and I hate rolling pins, kitchen knives cleavers, dandelion diggers (make a dandy spear), shovels, rocks, hemlock, and certain mushrooms; not to mention hammers, axes, etc.

Ban them all!!!!!!!!!!!

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe1 years ago

I hate guns of all kinds! Guns spell 'DEATH' - death of an animal or death of a person!!

Kriss Ite
Kriss Ite1 years ago

Too John P.: I wish so.

john pierce
John Pierce1 years ago

Can't we all just get along?

Kriss Ite
Kriss Ite1 years ago

T be honest, will NOT accept any surveys no matter e result because not only does few people who go to a certain website can't just represent the entire population but people don't always answer surveys honestly. People wish to be private, and just might not answer surveys correctly for privacy reasons. P.S: sopcalled "assault style" weapons are more often than not no deadlier than some "non assault" style weapon. As demonstrated on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjM9fcEzSJ0&list=PLkYQwSCzfVREuHIZOk28qPIyH7mAq5dN-&index=6, a Ruger Mini-14 with a wooden stock is just as deadly as a AR-15 with plastic stock, grip and fore-end. Even at that, these CAN be used as effective weapons for use of defense of self and others.

Steven Gregory Davis

@Pamela W. thanks for clearing that up, but I must say the fact that RLEE E. couldn't even COPY the name correctly, doesn't surprise me a bit...Most gun-wielding Maniacs are at best semi-literate...Case in point, Wayne LaPierre!!!!