The headlines are more than a little scary. Sales down everywhere. Layoffs at manufacturers like Remington, Sig Sauer, and Savage Arms. The turmoil isn’t helped by things like the federal court decision that Maryland’s assault weapon ban is constitutional because semi-auto civilian AR-15s are not only “dangerous and unusual” but somehow more offensive than their fully-automatic cousins in the hands of the military.
Despite the reduced sales in the first half of 2014 and the worrisome headlines, gun makers and sellers should keep in mind that sales aren’t exactly bad. While January through July sales in 2014 are down 21 percent compared to last year, they’re up 1.5 percent compared to the year before. Not stellar, of course, but 2012 and 2013 were stratospheric years in terms of firearms sales. Using NCIS background check totals, 6.85 million and 8.81 million checks by dealers were made in 2012 and 2013 respectively, by the end of July. The number for 2014 is 6.95 million.
2009 was a breakthrough year for sales, of course, as the buyers went into near-panic mode following the election of Barrack Obama, often called the “world’s greatest gun salesman.” But even that amazing year saw only 5.39 million NICS checks though the end of July, 1.56 million fewer than so far this year. And when sales were down in 2010, Chicken Littles worried about the sky falling. Despite the talk of market saturation and the end of the tactical revolution, though, sales increased the following year and haven’t looked back.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is calling this year’s sales figures a “new normal.”
“Those who are hostile to firearms ownership are trying to suggest sales are off in 2014 because people are no longer interested in owning guns, which is contradicted when you consider sales have risen for ten years, that last year was the highest year ever and that studies show increases in first-time gun owners and women buying guns,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti.
“The sky certainly is not falling,” Sanetti added. “To me, firearm sales data through the first seven months is saying our industry is experiencing a ‘new normal.’ Like a rocket ship, we’ve returned to Earth, but we haven’t gone back in time. With 2014 on track to be one of the highest sales years in a decade, I call that a sign of a healthy industry serving a passionate, growing customer base.”
Sales will fluctuate year to year based on many factors, and just as a strong year does not mean that sales will always keep rising, a weaker year does not mean that sales are going to spiral downward. The general trend is still a strongly upward one, and even if a bit of a plateau has been reached, it’s a plateau that is high enough to sustain a lot of activity in the industry for years to come.