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With Trump Win, Gun Sellers See Win — And Loss

Nov 16, 2016
Originally published on November 16, 2016 9:59 am

It's no secret that Donald Trump campaigned as a champion of gun rights, but a Trump administration poses both welcome relief and an immediate problem for the gun industry.

For Larry Cavener, who recently visited a new gun shop called Tactical Advantage in Overland Park, Kan., this election means he can breathe easier.

"This means that we're not gonna be under siege for a few years, and it seems like it has been," Cavener says.

But the Obama years have actually been awesome for the U.S. gun industry. It has roughly doubled in size, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group.

Tactical Advantage is part of an Obama-era gun industry success story. Brad Bissey, behind the counter, says Obama's executive order mandating background checks on more gun sales and proposals to limit military-style weapons have fueled gun sales.

"You're causing people that wouldn't normally buy a gun to buy two or three. The owner here, Craig, he had sold three rifles to one individual, just because of a possibility [of a Clinton presidency]," Bissey says.

The shop has only been open a month, and owner Craig Antovoni says customers have been spending big.

"They were a little nervous thinking about Hillary getting in the office, and there's been a run on the guns and parts," he says.

But Wednesday, those sales evaporated. That day, Antovoni says, traffic was "a little slow."

Trump's surprise victory didn't just hurt store sales, it slammed gun company stocks. Two big manufacturers — Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger — saw their stocks plummet because the industry is losing a very potent and enduring moneymaker.

"The message is in fact that the government is going to come take your guns away," says professor Don Haider-Markel at the University of Kansas. He says that message made hoarding guns seem like political defiance.

"I think the NRA and conservative media in general have pushed the idea that your rights are really under threat, and not only do you need to exercise those rights by owning guns, but you should own as many guns as you can afford," he says.

At Centerfire Shooting Sports in Olathe, Kan., there's a cheery Christmas tree, fresh cookies and coffee for customers. The business is 4 years old, another part of the Obama-era gun industry expansion.

"We'd only been open a month when Sandy Hook happened, and we didn't know what to expect, and it was crazy," says co-owner Jean Basore.

She thinks a Clinton victory would have produced another spike in sales. But, she says, Clinton's likely gun control measures would have been bad for her industry long-term. Basore thinks the gun industry is turning a corner. About a quarter of her customers are new to guns and many are women.

"So I don't think a fear-driven, momentary surge in gun sales is what the industry needs as a whole," she says. "For all businesses, I'm a small business owner, so I want a strong economy, so people have that income to spend."

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Across the United States, gun rights activists worked hard to elect Donald Trump. Exit polling suggests he carried gun owners handily, and they're happy he won, mostly. As Frank Morris of member station KCUR reports, a President Trump brings both welcome relief and an immediate problem for the gun industry.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: It's no secret that Trump champions gun rights. And Larry Cavanaugh, a Kansan who happens to have two shotguns tucked under his arm, says this election means that he can breathe easier.

LARRY CAVANAUGH: This means that we're not going to be under siege for a few years. And it seems like it has been.

MORRIS: But the Obama years have actually been awesome for the U.S. gun industry. It's roughly doubled in size, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is a AR-15.

MORRIS: This brand new shop in an Overland Park, Kan., strip mall is part of the Obama-era gun industry success story. Brad Bissey, behind the counter, says Obama's executive order mandating background checks on more gun sales and proposals to limit military-style weapons have fueled gun sales.

BRAD BISSEY: You're causing people that normally wouldn't buy a gun to come out and buy two or three. The owner here, Craig, he had sold three rifles to one individual just because of a possibility.

MORRIS: The possibility of a Clinton presidency.

CRAIG ANTOVONI: I'm Craig Antovoni, owner of Tactical Advantage.

MORRIS: Antovoni's shop has only been open a month, and customers have been spending big.

ANTOVONI: They were a little nervous thinking about Hillary getting in the office. And there's been a run on the guns and parts.

MORRIS: But the day after the election, those sales evaporated.

ANTOVONI: Today, everybody, I guess, was up late last night because traffic's been a little slow today, but...

MORRIS: Trump's surprise victory didn't just hurt gun store sales; it slammed gun company stocks. Two big manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger, saw their shares plummet because the industry is losing a very potent and enduring moneymaker.

DON HAIDER-MARKEL: The message is in fact that the government is going to come take your guns away.

MORRIS: And Professor Don Haider-Markel at the University of Kansas says that message made hoarding guns seem like political defiance.

HAIDER-MARKEL: I think the NRA and conservative media in general have pushed the idea that your rights are really under threat, and not only do you need to exercise those rights by owning guns, but you should own as many guns as you can afford.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

MORRIS: At Centerfire Shooting Sports in Olathe, Kan., there's a cheery Christmas tree, fresh cookies and coffee for customers. This business is 4 years old, another part of the Obama-era gun industry expansion.

JEAN BASORE: We'd only been open a month, and then Sandy Hook happened. And we didn't know what to expect, and it was crazy.

MORRIS: Co-owner Jean Basore thinks a Clinton victory would have produced another spike in sales. But she says Clinton's likely gun-control measures would have been bad for her industry long-term. Basore thinks the gun industry is turning a corner. About a quarter of her customers are new to guns, and many are women.

BASORE: So I don't think a fear-driven, momentary surge in gun sales is what the industry needs as a whole, you know, for all businesses. I'm a small-business owner, and so I want a strong economy so people have that income to spend.

MORRIS: But an improved economy may not be enough to sustain growth in gun sales. With pro-gun Republicans solidly in charge in Washington, gun sellers may have to find a new threat, real or perceived, to motivate buyers. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Kansas City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.