Gun industry: Up or down, mixed messages abound
By Christen Smith
It’s a “cash cow” or a “bubble” primed to burst. It’s a casualty of a dying retail sector or one of the nation’s fastest growing hobbies. Whoever you ask about the state of the firearms industry, a different answer is sure to follow.
Precise measurement of sales eludes analysis. The best proxy, federal background checks, appear to contradict expectations month to month.
As anticipated, applications submitted through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System plunged by nearly 20 percent in January and February compared to 2016 — the industry’s biggest ever — in what market analysts and the media dubbed the “Trump slump.”
Likewise, stock prices for retail giants including Sturm, Ruger and American Outdoor Brands crashed. Headlines declared doom and gloom was settling in for a four-year stay.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, however, held fast to its belief the industry’s long-term growth would endure. The National Rifle Association, too, dissected NICS data to show proof the crash was anything but — a strategy written off as a hapless, hopeless spin by liberal commentators.
In March, the NICS nosedive showed signs of stabilizing, with just a 3 percent decline overall. Estimated sales, however, posted 4 percent higher than the year before — an upward