Monday, May 28, 2012
Smith & Wesson booms as firearms owners fear prez crackdown
Smith & Wesson said preliminary net sales from continuing operations rose 28 percent to $129 million during the latest quarter. The gun maker also reported a $439 million backlog of orders — a $252 million increase from a year earlier.
Remington’s parent company recently reported a 34 percent quarterly sales gain, while Connecticut-based Sturm, Ruger & Co. saw transactions soar nearly 50 percent. Sturm, Ruger even stopped taking orders for two months to catch up on back orders.
All told, background checks for new gun purchases — the best gauge of overall U.S. weapons sales — rose 14.4 percent in 2011 to 10.8 million, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
“There’s no one reason that explains all of the increase, but what’s been called ‘The Obama Factor’ undoubtedly is an important part of it,” said Lawrence Keane, a senior vice president at the foundation.
He attributes some of the increase to a range of non-political factors, from more women purchasers to two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases favoring gun-buyer rights.
But Keane added that sales took off shortly before Obama’s 2008 election and stayed high throughout his first year in office as gun-rights supporters fretted over the Democrat’s plans.
“Whenever people perceive the possibility of laws or regulations that will restrict their (weapons-purchasing) rights, they tend to buy guns,” Keane said.
Analyst Reed Anderson of Northland Securities believes some of today’s sales come from people who first bought guns because of Obama’s election, then discovered they liked sport shooting.
“When Obama won in 2008, that really primed the pump for a lot of demand from first-time buyers,” he said. “What we’re seeing now is repeat customers.”
The National Rifle Association thinks buyers are just acting logically.
“President Obama has demonstrated a lifetime of support for anti-gun legislation, so there’s a lot to fear about what will happen if he gets a second term,” NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford said.
Even gun-control activist John Rosenthal of Hub-based Stop Handgun Violence concedes it’s “probably true” that fearful gun buyers are pushing sales higher. But he thinks gun-rights groups are playing on such concerns for political reasons.
“Nothing ‘sells’ better than fear of gun confiscation,” Rosenthal said.
Smith & Wesson’s sales gains are certainly boosting the Bay State economy. The gun maker got $6.6 million in state incentives in 2010 to move some operations here and create 225 jobs by 2015.
Ultimately, the firm fulfilled its quota of new jobs in a little over a year.