The State of the Gun Industry is ‘Alert’
By Jeff Knox
(January 21, 2016) The annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show is under way in Las Vegas this week, and the massive trade show is experiencing record crowds. The show is not open to the public, but is limited to people in the industry. Even with these restrictions, the SHOT Show attracts more than 1,600 exhibitors and some 64,000 attendees during its 4-day, mid-week run. Most of those attendees are gun dealers, manufacturers, or importers looking to ink deals to buy or sell guns, ammunition, knives, accessories, clothing, or other hunting, shooting, or survival gear, and to see what their competitors are offering.
As my brother Chris and I have walked the aisles of the show for the past two days, examining exhibitors’ wares and talking with them about guns and politics, we’ve found consistent concern about the upcoming Presidential Election. With Hillary Clinton the presumptive candidate for the Democrats, in spite of her many scandals and the ongoing FBI investigation of her illegal handling of classified documents, and Republicans still whittling down their perspective candidates, and suggestions that leadership has cut a deal with Donald Trump, gun guys are justifiably worried about the future.
While Clinton and her avowed Socialist opponent, Bernie Sanders, argue about which of them is more dedicated to the cause of gun control, the Republican candidates are arguing the exact opposite. Front-runner Trump has put out position papers declaring his unyielding support of gun owner rights and opposition to gun control schemes, but, as opponents like Ted Cruz have been quick to point out, only a few years ago, Trump was advocating in favor of various gun control proposals, such as a renewed “assault weapon” ban. Trump supporters counter with challenges to Cruz’s claim of being an “avid” hunter, because he has only had a Texas hunting license off and on for a few of the past several years. And Marco Rubio has been criticized for a vote he cast while in the Florida State Senate, supporting private property rights over an NRA-backed bill to forbid the banning of firearms in locked vehicles in company parking lots.
For GunVoters, there’s no question which major party supports our rights and which opposes our rights. The only questions are which Republican candidate has the potential to win the General Election and which is less likely to stab gun owners in the back in the wake of some future atrocity committed by a deviant with a gun.
With Wednesday’s back-handed endorsement of Trump by former Senator and past presidential candidate, Bob Dole, many political analysts – and the Cruz campaign – are suggesting that the Republican establishment has cut a deal with Trump, abandoning their favored candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, in hopes of cutting off the efforts of Ted Cruz, whom they really dislike, but is this analysis accurate?
Key factions of the Republican coalition including GunVoters, anti-abortion voters, libertarians, and moderate “big tent” Republicans are very mistrustful of Trump. Some like what he is saying now, but remember what he has said in the past, while others are offended by current comments. There has clearly been some repositioning within the party – evident in campaign contributions – as the possibility of a Trump win in the primaries solidifies, but there has been no significant, visible shift within the party establishment, or among core Republican voters. Voter attitudes will only become evident after votes start to be counted. Telephone polls are a poor predictor of what actual happens in the privacy of the voting booth.
Analysts may be reading too much into Dole’s comments. After all, this is the same man who capped his political career with a disastrous presidential bid, followed by a paid endorsement for erectile dysfunction medication in a national ad campaign. In short, Mr. Dole is no longer a representative voice of any wing of the Republican Party, but rather a pitch-man with a demonstrated willingness to sell his endorsement to the highest bidder.
The Iowa Caucuses will be held on the first of February, with the New Hampshire Primary following nine days later. Republican stalwarts who turn out for those contests will be looking at a variety of factors when they cast their votes, including their perceptions of the candidates’ electability in the General Election. Surprises are inevitable. While Trump and Cruz both enjoy some broad appeal on the right, many, even among their supporters, are doubtful about their ability to attract voters from the all-important middle.
From the perspective of the firearms industry, any of the top-tier Republicans would be acceptable, and all of the Democrat candidates are wholly unacceptable. In his State of the Industry address in Las Vegas, National Shooting Sports Foundation President Stephen Sanetti, declared that “the state of the industry is Alert,” attentive to the political winds, and activating to oppose threats to the industry.
We’re glad to hear this commitment from industry leaders, especially considering the financial boon reaped by the industry over the last seven years thanks to the efforts of Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress to enact various gun control schemes. Each time politicians and the media jump on the gun control band wagon, Americans rush to their gun stores to buy more guns and ammunition: voting with their wallets, and propelling the industry to record sales.
As much as these sales boosts are appreciated, and despite the fact that a large enough shift in Congress to endanger gun rights is virtually impossible this year, the industry recognizes that the next President is likely to appoint at least one, and possibly as many as three new Supreme Court Justices, which could shift the balance of the Court for decades to come, not to mention the hundreds of appointments of judges to lower federal courts. That’s not something anyone concerned about individual rights should take lightly.