The Barack Obama presidency was an excellent time for weapon sales. Endless hype by lobbyists and hobbyists led to glorious profits for manufacturers and retailers. They were all expecting the Hillary Clinton presidency to be just as good for business, but the surprise election of reality television star Donald J.Trump has led to a big sales slump in guns and ammunition.
CNN Money reports that background check applications, which are an industry proxy for measuring handgun sales, have declined 16 percent in December and 20 percent in January from the previous year.
“I think the entire gun industry was planning on, and I think the entire country was thinking, that Hillary was going to win,” Brian Skinner, the CEO of Kalashnikov USA, said in a recent interview with CNNMoney.
“And I know there was huge demand, all the manufacturers had huge orders, and then the day after the election, distributors were canceling orders left and right just because they realized Trump’s coming in now.”
Since Election Day, the two publicly traded gun manufacturers — Sturm Ruger () and the former Smith & Wesson, which rebranded itself as American Outdoor Brand ( ) — have suffered declines of more than 20% in their stock prices.
Just a few months ago, Smith & Wesson was announcing record profits.
“I think people are going to slow down and the industry as a whole is going to adjust,” says Skinner, who believes that some companies “are going to die off” in the downturn.
In other words, America has a gun glut now. Prices will stay at rock-bottom for the duration of Trump’s presidency. Hardest-hit will be those collectors who purchased more guns than ever before during 2016 because they expected to cash in at gun shows during 2017, small manufacturers, and retailers.
Call it a “gun bubble,” a classic case of deregulated free markets screwing over the little guy — and better yet, convincing the little guy to continually screw himself.
On behalf of its corporate patrons, the National Rifle Association whipped up mass hysteria over the fate of the Second Amendment every year of the Obama administration, inflating prices. Few of his proposed gun measures did more than nibble at the margins of gun violence, but they were all cast as THE END OF FREEDOM.
In what was probably my favorite example of gun-hugging nonsense, federal government purchases of ammunition were criticized as attempts to make bullets more scarce and expensive, which justified price increases on ammunition. See how that works out?
But what’s interesting about the reactionary propaganda that inflated this bubble is how an entire online culture was prepared to amplify it to breathtaking levels. I’m not just talking about social media memes, which are instructive. Rather, 2016 was the year that the ‘alt-right’ emerged to make racism and fascism and batshit-insane conspiracy theories acceptable in mainstream politics, boosting a pro-gun president into the White House.
Funny how white nationalism and “the right to bear arms” go hand in hand at every point, huh?
In fact, it seemed as if the entire pro-Trump movement consisted of (1) fake news and (2) accusations that the real news was fake. This was no accident. A very loud little movement was really, truly at war with objective reality. Dire predictions of a “great gun grab” really did vomit forth from every right-wing source, big or small, as they imposed an alternative set of facts. The goofy ravings of Alex Jones carried greater currency with Trump supporters than any mainstream conservative news source, and now his website is getting White House press credentials.
You didn’t imagine this — it really happened. It was perhaps the greatest act of gaslighting in modern times, with guns and race always an implicit or explicit theme.
Nor is any of this really new, or even a secret. The National Rifle Association consciously turned away from gun control in the 1970s, deciding instead that there was a giant pile of money to be made by feeding racial fears, attacking restrictions, and arming as many (white) Americans as possible. This is why there are now almost as many guns in the United States as there are people. As an economic sector, guns are about one-fifth the size of the annual cost of gun violence to American society and taxpayers, yet the illusion of safety found in gun ownership has proven to be very profitable.
So when a black president was elected in 2008, the NRA and its allies were thrilled to have a perfect poster-boy for one last, great push to sell lots and lots of guns.
Donald Trump began his Republican Party ambitions by pandering to conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birth certificate. He announced his candidacy by denouncing Mexicans as rapists. He began his presidency by putting white nationalists Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller in charge of drafting his executive orders.
But Trump is letting everyone keep their guns, which is what the self-styled defenders of freedom say they wanted more than anything. Right?
Broad reductions in violent crime rates since the late 1980s have not led to a corresponding reduction in fears of crime. If anything, white America — especially rural white America — has been terrified into believing the opposite.
Trump spoke to this many times during his campaign, describing a land of violence and destruction in American cities that bore little resemblance to the actual America around him, but carried all the racial codes that have driven conservative politics since Richard Nixon. He did that again in his short, dark inaugural speech: shuttered factories became tombstones, and the country was marked by “carnage.” These economic metaphors speak to the gun culture and its pathology.
This is why the city of Chicago suddenly looms so large now, by the way. Without a gun-grabbing black president (or a gun-grabbing woman president representative of the “nanny state”), the fear-mongers need a new bogeyman to promote their ammosexual lifestyle.
Chicago isn’t the “murder capital” of the United States — there are cities with much bigger gun violence problems — but Chicago does have stricter gun laws than the rest of the nation and a history of racial police violence. It is also the adopted home of Barack Obama, whose former chief of staff is mayor.
In other words, the city is a convenient political scapegoat being used to help the rubes distract themselves from how badly they’ve screwed themselves again.