Gun sales up in US
Washington – Andreyah Garland, a 44-year-old single mother of three daughters, bought a shotgun in May for protection in the quaint middle-class town of Fishkill, New York. She joined a new and fast-growing local gun club to learn how to shoot.
She has since applied for a pistol permit and constantly hunts for increasingly scarce ammunition – making three trips weekly to a local Walmart. “They’re always out,” she said.
Like legions of other first-time buyers who are contributing to record sales for the US gun industry this year, Garland’s decision to take up arms is driven in part by disturbing news about the coronavirus pandemic, social unrest over police killings of Black people and a potentially contested election that many fear could spark violence.
“With everything going on around us,” she said, “you see a need.”
Surges in US firearm sales have in recent decades been predictably driven by events sparking fears of impending gun-control legislation, such as the election of a Democratic president or a spate of mass shootings, federal gun background check data show. Industry experts and academics who study gun ownership say such surges came largely among the gun-industry’s core base of white, male and politically conservative customers who often already owned one or multiple guns.
That market is widening this year to include a new rush of first-time buyers, including many women, minorities and politically liberal buyers who once would not have considered gun ownership, according to Reuters interviews with more than a dozen industry experts, academics and gun store owners.
“People who don’t normally think about firearms are being forced to contemplate something outside their universe,” said Dan Eldridge, owner of Maxon Shooter’s Supplies and Indoor Range in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Illinois.
The number of first-time buyers has skyrocketed this year, according to industry analysts, trade groups and the CEO of major gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson Brands Inc SWBI.O, Mark Peter Smith. In a Sept. 3 conference call with investors, Smith estimated that firearms neophytes accounted for about 40% of sales this year, an estimate he called conservative and “double the national average” in past years. In a September 2 call, Sportsman’s Warehouse Holdings Inc SPWH.O CEO Jon Barker said the company estimated that 5 million people purchased firearms for the first time across the industry in the first seven months of the year, which matched a recent figure put out by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group, based on a national survey of retailers.
In a statement to Reuters, Walmart Inc WMT.N acknowledged supply shortages in outdoor products including hunting but provided no details of its gun and ammunition sales or inventory. “We are working with our suppliers to make product available for our customers as quickly as possible,” the company said. (Reuters)