The gun industry and by default the NRA are in turmoil as gun sales have seen a record drop in the first eight months of the Trump administration. After nearly two decades of continuous increases in sales the industry has been taken back by the sudden decreases. Both insiders and analysts predicted a decline and some had argued of a bubble, but most agree that their predictions didn’t forecast reductions of this magnitude – 25% decreases in sales and stock prices dropping as much as 40%. With continued declines predicted, this has created what some are calling Washington spillover with infighting occurring in an industry that is historically in lock-step.
“The GOP hasn’t been able to get their act together for years, but that hasn’t affected us,” said a manufacturing executive who wished to remain anonymous, “but that division is starting to find its way into the gun industry.” Insiders in the retail industry say there is disagreement over the path forward with some advocating for a shift to funding liberal candidates in the White House and conservative candidates for virtually all other positions. The executive noted this path is not a new idea in the industry, “There were people saying this last year, and saying we should be donating money to Bernie Sanders.” Behind this idea is the concept that a liberal White House creates an atmosphere where conservatives fearing gun controls drive additional sales in weapons and ammo, but the legal realities of those controls are held at bay by conservative legislatures at the federal and state levels.
“We always knew Obama was good business, but I don’t think anyone realized how much he and the story created around him was playing into revenue for the industry.” This idea is creating a rift between the revenue driven insiders and those holding onto a conservative political stance that can’t imagine supporting candidates that advocate gun controls. Those who were advocating for Sanders, then Clinton support in 2016 claim the legislatures will hold off any true gun control threats while a gun control president will provide the storyline the industry needs to drive sales.
The opponents fear a slip in the Republican control which could lead to unintended consequences. Additionally, many just can’t stomach providing financial support, secret support at that, for candidates they despise. The executive we spoke to admitted there are risks. “I don’t worry about a failure among the Republican lead legislatures, but there is definitely a risk of backlash among our supporters due to the support of a liberal candidate. I really think we just stay out of the presidential elections and focus on Congress.”
Some may see non-support of Trump as support for his opponent in 2020, but with sales and stock prices in steep declines, we may see a sharp change in the gun industry advocacy. The manufacturing executive summed up his thoughts, “The industry’s best hope is Elizabeth Warrens in 2020.”