The Obama Boom
by Charles Lemos, Mon Nov 02, 2009 at 01:20:01 PM EST
Well, there is one sector of the economy that is booming under President Obama - gun sales and ammunition. On average, the FBI's National Instant Background Check System is reporting some 1.2 million checks per month in 2009. That's a 30 percent rise over 2008 levels. The checks are required for all people buying weapons from licensed retailers.
But gun sales are not uniform across the country. The rise is concentrated, not surprisingly, in the red states. Take South Carolina (please). As of mid-October, 28,197 new concealed weapons permits have been issued this year by South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division. That's an annual record that already has surpassed the 14,630 new permits issued for all of 2008 and far outstripping all previous years, according to SLED statistics. In Oklahoma, there has been a 87 percent increase in concealed carry permit applications for 2009 over 2008 so far.
According to Wedbush Morgan equity analyst Rommel Dionisio, most of the increment in gun sales has been in self-defense firearms like military-type semi-automatics or pistols. While sales of traditional bolt-action hunting rifles and shotguns remain steady, the boom has been largely in high-powered weapons that can fire more than ten rounds. But beyond weapons, there has been an explosion in ammunition sales. Since Barack Obama's election a year ago, gun shops have sold enough bullets to give every American 38 of them. Since I don't have any, that means some of us have lot more than just 38 bullets.
The Washington Post has more.
At points during the past year, bullets have been selling faster than factories could make them.
Gun owners have bought about 12 billion rounds of ammunition in the past year, industry officials estimate. That's up from 7 billion to 10 billion in a normal year.
It's happened, oddly, at a time when the two concerns that usually make people buy guns and bullets -- crime and increased gun control -- seem less threatening than usual.
The explanation for the run on bullets lies partly in economics: Once rounds were scarce, people hoarded them, which made them scarcer.
But the rush for bullets, like this year's increase in gun sales, also says something about how suspicious the two sides of the gun-control debate are of one another, even at a time when the issue is on Washington's back burner.
The run started, observers say, as people heeded warnings from the gun-rights lobby that a new Democratic administration would make bullets more expensive or harder to get. Now that the shortage is starting to ease, gun-control groups are voicing their own dark worries about stockpiled ammunition.
In between, in the 12 months since last October, gun shops sold enough bullets to give every American 38 of them.
"We've had people buy ammunition for calibers they don't even have the gun for: 'Oh, I want to get this gun eventually. And when I get it, ammunition may be hard to get,' " said Michael Tenny, who runs a Fort Worth-based Internet sporting goods store called Cheaper Than Dirt.
Tenny said some of his ammunition tripled in price, but he still sold it: "It's just like playoff tickets."
It was already a political truism that Democrats prompt sales of both guns and ammo. The U.S. government taxes both to support wildlife conservation, and those receipts jumped after Bill Clinton was elected and after Democrats retook Congress in 2006.
But the spike under Obama seems to be on a different scale: The receipts are on pace to set a record in 2009, according to U.S. Treasury Department data, with tax revenue due from guns up 42 percent and revenue due from ammunition at 49 percent. Recently, analysts have said earnings reports from gunmakers seem to show demand for weapons slackening.
The increase in gun buying during the past year explains a large part of the increase in ammunition sales to the private market, experts on the industry say -- but probably not all of it.
They say that bullets were bought not just by new gun owners, but also by those who already owned weapons. And they say bullet sales might have increased even faster if supply had kept up with demand.
It's hard to make sense of all this. It is, however, reprehensible how the National Rifle Association is stoking the fires. Asked for their view of what's driving gun sales, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said, "I think it's Katrina. I think it's terrorism. I think it's crime. And I also think that it's people worrying about [whether] they'll be attacked by politicians." He then added, "They're suspicious, and justifiably so."
Just for the record, the most recent FBI crime statistics, from 2008, showed that violent crime rates are their lowest level since 1989.