AR-15 manufacturers and sellers face a depressed market because Obama didn’t take everyone’s guns away after all.
A girl can only own but so many Barbie dolls; after the first one, it gets pretty obvious pretty quickly that all those plastic bits are basically the same, minus the accessories. The AR-15 and “black guns” like it have long been considered the Barbie dolls of the gun fetishist/paranoid lunatic market; though given the trendiness of Open Carry rallies, “designer purse” may now be a more apt metaphor.
But all these things share one common trait: they’re all sold on the basis of fear and inadequacy, and the fantasy of freedom from both.
Consider Barbie first. Little girls grow up in a world that puts beauty and money above all else, and they fear lacking beauty and money. Barbie allows them to fantasize that they have both.
Little boys grow up in a world that puts strength and power above all else; “black guns” allow them to fantasize that they have both. The NRA and gun manufacturers have been exploiting the fear of a loss of strength and power for decades now. In fact, rarely an NRA rally goes by that Wayne LaPierre doesn’t spend half an hour selling the fear of things almost nobody but the NRA is even talking about.
Not that it’s a hard sell. When Barack Obama was elected president, sales of military-style “black guns” like the AR-15 (from which the actual military M-16 was originally derived) skyrocketed. ‘Twas the end of the world as they knew it, and AR’s feelin’ fine.
All awaiting the inevitable “we’re comin’ fer yer guns!” apocalypse — but unfortunately, it failed to materialize. Of course, that didn’t stop the NRA from telling its adherents that it was coming. And that’s all that really mattered; like Tinkerbell, simply believing in The War was enough. Andrea James, Minneapolis-based analyst for Dougherty & Co. investment brokers:
“Everybody wanted to buy one before Congress passed legislation that might take away the right to have one. Of course, Congress never passed that legislation. The best thing for firearms demand is to have the constant threat of legislation without ever actually having the legislation.”
Andrea is one among many who have dropped their stock ratings of companies like Smith & Wesson from “on fire” to “neutral” in recent days. And for good reason. The Failed Prophecy saw S&W’s stock drop 14 percent in one day, its biggest decline since 2012. Sturm Ruger dropped 3.5 percent in one day, adding to its total 33 percent drop this year.
Jim Hornsby, an Atlanta gun shop owner, says AR-15-style rifle sales have dropped a staggering 70 percent this year:
“Assault-rifle sales stopped in their tracks. It’s hard to give an AR away.There’s not an immediate fear the government’s going to take them away so sales are back to a more traditional pace.” (This is where we point out that the gun shop owner himself called the AR-15 an “assault rifle.” But, of course, AR-15s originally designed to kill Soviets in Korea aren’t “assault rifles“…they’re “hunting” or “sport” rifles. Uh-huh.)
And what happens when “sales drop back to a more traditional pace?” S&W profits have dropped by almost half (45 percent), and annual stock earnings will be 84 to 94 cents a share, instead of the $1.30 to $1.30 a share originally predicted. Most telling of all, about 87 percent of that drop was due directly to the reduction in sales of assault rifles. Err…sport rifles. Given that alone, it’s become pretty clear exactly how much vested interest firearms manufacturers like S&W have in weapons that sell almost entirely on fearmongering and paranoia.
And that brings us back to designer purses.
Make no mistake: gun sales are still very strong in America, particularly owing to a rise in demand for more compact, more practical weapons like polymer composite pistols. Sales of these types of weapons are steadily rising, particularly among women. In fact, gun-shop-owner Hornsby has begun to cater specifically to the ladies by getting rid of those creepy old stuffed deer heads on his gun shop’s walls, and replacing them with cleaner, prettier, less disturbing porcelain deer heads. It’s all become quite…gentrified.
So, what does the future hold for gun sales in America? We’d expect that in the near future, women will be less concerned about the brand names on their purses than the brand names on the hardware inside. And, while the market may be a bit saturated with sport rifles at the moment, we’d expect that, at least among a certain group of people, the classic black AR-15 will remain forever…