The Knox Update
From the Firearms Coalition
Support Your Local Gun Shop
By Jeff Knox
(Manassas, VA, November 19, 2009) The day of the little Mom & Pop gun shop seem to be waning. Even small shops these days are sophisticated, computerized, professionally managed businesses, but those small shops are becoming harder to find. Faced with competition from the internet and mega-retailers like Wal-Mart, Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops, small, dedicated gun shops are finding it more and more difficult to compete. Throw in the added pressure of more frequent and more adversarial oversight by ATF, increased pressure from community zoning boards and taxing authorities, and major shortages in all sorts of guns and ammunition keeping dealer’s shelves bare for months in the midst of the worst recession in decades and it’s easy to understand why a lot of shops are struggling.
What gun owners need to understand is that the small firearms retailer is the beating heart of the firearms industry and the “gun culture.” Without dedicated gun shops our whole way of life is in serious jeopardy. That might sound a bit over the top, but it is a simple economic and political reality. California just shut down all non-face-to-face ammo transactions. Internet firearms transactions are dependent on local dealers to process the transfers and the internet could be subjected to all sorts of government controls at any minute. Big chains like Wal-Mart and K-Mart have demonstrated a lack of commitment to their firearms and ammunition business, agreeing to intrusive invasion of their customers’ privacy and completely pulling out of the business when the social pressure bears down. Major outdoor retailers, while more committed to the firearms business have also demonstrated a proclivity toward political correctness with some retailers refusing to carry certain types of military-looking hardware and ammo. We know that gun shows have been under fire for years and just a slight shift of the political winds could easily make them a thing of the past.
Over the past 15 years complicated government regulations teamed with aggressive enforcement combined with pressure from big gun show vendors, internet sites, and mega-stores has driven over 175,000 licensed dealers to quit the business. In 1992 there were 284,669 Federal Firearms Licensees and by 2007 that number had dropped to about 109,000. And those numbers don’t take into account the thousands of FFL’s that were surrendered and replaced by new players in the game. Now add the pressure of the worst economy in decades and severe shortages of the most sought-after guns and ammunition – leaving small retailers with little to sell… While the firearms business is one of the only sectors of the economy that is doing well, it is only doing well for the top of the food chain; the manufacturers, distributors, and the major retailers. Smaller shops are, for the most part, being completely left out of the boom. As the shortages wane and supplies begin to flow again, it is the volume retailers – the big chains – that get product first. Small shops are left to scramble for crumbs and even purchase items at retail to sell for no profit or a loss just to have something to offer.
If another 50,000 dealers surrender their licenses over the next 5 or 10 years, the firearms industry will be almost totally dependent upon super-stores for its existence. With the rise of the super-stores will come a decline in internet sales – except through sites associated with the super-stores – because super-stores are disinclined to share business with competitors and if you can’t find a dealer to handle a transfer for you locally, you can’t buy that gun. From there all it would take is some social or political pressure to cause a bit of corporate reprioritization – as happened with Smith & Wesson’s international conglomerate owners several years ago – and a good 80 to 90 percent of the civilian firearms industry could simply go away.
It is up to gunowners to make sure that this never happens. We must make a commitment to support our local gun shops and follow through on that commitment by giving them our business. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t buy guns and ammo from Shotgun News ad’s or over the internet, but we shouldn’t begrudge the local shop a reasonable fee for processing the transfer for us and there are plenty of parts, accessories, and accoutrements we could get from the gun shop rather than a Mega-Mart. Plus there are a lot of great deals and some really good people to be found down at the shop. A few cents difference on a box of ammo or a holster isn’t going to make much difference to each of us, but together those pennies could keep our favorite shops, and our favorite pastime, in business.
Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit is included. Text is available at www.FirearmsCoalition.org where you can also order your copy of Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War. To receive The Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Knox Hard Corps Report, write to PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA 20108.
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