A Down Economy? Not for the Firearms Industry

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So the world didn’t end, after all. Whew! Looks like we dodged another bullet.

Speaking of bullets, I hope everyone has their holiday shopping done. Just one last thought before the actual holiday (and before the holiday shopping season is complete): If anyone’s looking for a new semi-automatic rifle for Christmas, better hurry.

Walmart reportedly has sold out of semi-automatic rifles in five states already because of the strongest demand the firearms industry has ever seen. And prices everywhere else are spiking.

The preferred guns are:

  • A modified AK-47, the most popular assault weapon in America.
  • A tricked-out AR-15, like the one used by James Holmes, the accused Aurora (Colo.) movie theater killer.
  • A Bushmaster.223 caliber M4 carbine, Adam Lanza’s weapon of choice in Newtown, Conn.

That AK-47 that went for $600 just a few months ago, now sells for more than $1,000. The AR-15 has shot up to $1,600 from $1,000.  A Bushmaster.223 is going from anywhere between $1,200 to $1,400.

And even though a used one can still be found for around $900, never has exercising one’s Second Amendment rights been so expensive. Assault weapon magazines, alone, jumped from $30 to $60.

Guns, it seems, are good business.

The Gun Business is Good Business

Yes, 2012 was a banner year for the country’s 5,400 firearms manufacturers and its 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers, not to mention its unquantifiable number of assorted salesmen, importers, brokers, pawn shop owners, traders and collectors.

In 2012, the U.S. gun industry racked up $11.7 billion in sales and $992 million in profits on some 5.5 million manufactured and 3.5 million imported weapons. The FBI recorded more than 16.8 million background checks for gun purchases this year, a record high.

Freedom Group, the largest manufacturer of commercial firearms and ammunition in the United States and the owner of the Remington, Marlin, Defense Procurement Manufacturing Services and Bushmaster brands, reported a 20-percent increase in revenue through the first three quarters of 2012. The total: $667 million.

Sturm Ruger saw a 48-percent increase in its sales over the same period, and Smith and Wesson forecasts revenues of $395 to $400 million for all of 2012.

A Rising Tide of Guns in a Sinking Economy

In fact, the firearms industry has been one of the U.S. economy’s brightest spots through the recent years of general downturn. Coinciding with the Great Recession, the 2008 election of Barack Obama began a national surge in gun sales that had a $27.8 billion impact on the country’s economy in 2009 because of job creation, gun sales and tax levies.

In 2011, that impact was $31.8 billion. Gun industry-related jobs grew by more than 30 percent between 2008 and 2011, and since 2008, profits have risen 140 percent for Smith and Wesson, alone.

But no one has ever seen business boom like it has over the past several weeks. First there was the President’s re-election, which caused Black Friday gun sales to hit a one-day high, almost crashing the FBI’s background check system.

Close on its heels was the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and subsequent calls for new gun-control legislation. That tragedy – 26 lives lost – spurred the latest spike in weapon purchases across the county and likely the empty shelves seen at Walmart stores in places like Pennsylvania, Kansas and Alabama.

A week later, it finally nudged the National Rifle Association back onto the national stage, where the powerful gun lobby’s executive vice president Wayne LaPierre called for the nation’s schools to be secured, by law, by armed guards.

The Gun Industry by the Numbers

All in all, the numbers look healthy for this vibrant sector of our national economy. The gun industry employs over 200,000 people. It pays out about $9.8 billion in annual wages. And it contributes more than $5 billion in federal and state taxes every year.

Are there any unhealthy numbers lurking in the shadows? Well, perhaps these:

  • There are about 310 million privately owned guns in America, a country with a population of 315 million.
  • Between 2003 and 2010, 247,131 Americans died of gunshot wounds
  • In 2011 there were 11,101 gun-related murders, nationwide.
  • Since 1982, the country has witnessed 61 mass shootings.
  • On Dec. 14, a semi-automatic gun and rifle-toting madman murdered 20 children in Newtown. They were all between 6 and 7 years old.

These are the next set of numbers the gun industry will have to confront, bullets that could not be dodged, ones with consequences for innocents.



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