When Donald Trump won the election in November 2016, most of us in the gun world
felt as the British must have, when they learned that an unpredicted storm had sunk the
oncoming Spanish Armada. Whenever two gun people get together today and one complains
about the new President, the other almost invariably says, “It could have been worse. Hillary
Clinton could have won.”
When the media declared Mrs. Clinton the inevitable winner before the election, the
firearms industry was poised for a rush to buy product that might have exceeded the gun and
ammo purchasing panics of the two Obama elections, and the Y2K hullabaloo. No one should
be surprised that the election of Trump escape from Hillary was seen by the gun-buying public
as at least a temporary elimination postponement of a very real threat. Let us not forget that
Mrs. Clinton had declared the NRA to be an “enemy,” and had stood smugly silent when her
minions called its members (and, by extension, all gun owners) “terrorists.”
Many of us felt like Jews in Germany watching the rise of Hitler as she demonized us and
made it clear that she would cheerfully seize our property. Thus, we can forgive much when
people in the firearms industry complain about the slump after the Obama years. (Yes, I’m
aware of Godwin’s Law, the theory that whomever calls the other side Nazis first loses the
debate. I offer Ayoob’s Corollary to Godwin’s Law: if you don’t want to be called a Nazi, don’t
talk or act like one.)
A great many gun dealers had put in orders for firearms, particularly the kind the
Democratic National Committee clearly stated they wanted to ban. The firearms industry had
accelerated production to be prepared for the artificially heightened demand. When the threat
ceased, so did the demand, and there was mass cancellation of orders. Dealers, distributors,
and manufacturers found themselves overstocked.
We have seen layoffs by major arms and ammunition manufacturers. Retail gun dealers
I talk to tell me sales are down from ten to as much as twenty percent on average. At the same
time, most don’t see it as a slump, and certainly don’t call it a “Trump slump” the way some
newspapers and business magazines do when they discuss the shortfall in firearms sales.
Rather, most see it as a return to normal, “pre-panic” buying patterns of yesteryear. The
bursting, as it were, of a bubble of demand created by those entities who made it clear they
wanted to prohibit Americans from owning certain firearms.
There have also been unexpected consequences. One of the many areas where gun
owners had been winning in spite of the Obama White House had been silencers: we’ve had a
slew of states legalize them (largely for hunting) where before, those states had banned them
from ownership. The suppressor market had been rising at an unprecedented rate. However,
when the smoke cleared in November and Republicans had won not only the White House but
control of both houses of Congress, gun people exuberantly believed that new legislation would
remove silencers from the NFA list and BATFE control, and they’d soon be able to buy them
without a $200 license fee…and many decided to wait to purchase until then. The resultant
demand slump hit the silencer manufacturers and sellers hard.
There has also been an unexpected drop in demand for training. Most instructors, from
local CCW trainers to “the big names,” have seen a drop in class sizes in 2017.
The long-hoped- for goal of national concealed carry reciprocity had seemed to be finally
within reach, with HR 38 on the table and Republicans apparently in command of the ship. Gun
owners’ civil rights spokesman Dave Workman recently wrote, “As former Pennsylvania
Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell lamented in The Hill on Monday, ‘Not only does the GOP have total
control of Congress and the White House, they now have total control of 26 states where they
have both houses of the legislature and the governorship. Democrats, on the other hand, have
similar full control of only six states. In fact, this brings the number of Democratic governors in
office to just 15, compared to 34 Republican governors.’”
This being the situation, national reciprocity should have been a shoo-in. Yet this
legislation remains almost moribund at this writing, leaving gun owners to wonder just how
serious the Republicans were when they courted our votes in 2016. Meanwhile, on the state
level, both Michigan and Illinois reported that for the first time in a long time, new applications
for concealed carry permits were slightly down.
…and Silver Linings
There are bright sides to all this. Why are new permit applications slowing down?
Perhaps because the tsunami of earlier applications have already armed a great number of the
people who had been helpless under the old system. There have been a significant number of
“saves” in Illinois already, people rescued because they were able to shoot back in time to save
their lives and the lives of others. The same has happened in Michigan.
Prices are down and availability up on the gun consumer’s end. AR15s that were selling
for over a thousand dollars when Barack Obama was first elected are now for sale in the $400
range. .22 Long Rifle ammunition is now readily available. Look at the out-the- door price of the
popular Smith & Wesson Shield pistol today, compared to a year or two ago. And, while
national reciprocity is not yet here, it’s in sight and more attainable than ever…and in the
meantime, there are more places where law-abiding armed citizens can carry guns to protect
themselves and their families in public than ever before. Look at the great leap in the number
of states that have gone with the Vermont Model of legalized carry without a permit required,
a/k/a “Constitutional Carry.” Look at how many states have recently legalized open carry of
loaded handguns in public.
Overall, from the courts to the legislatures, our side is winning. But there is still much to
do, and we cannot assume that because the anti-gunners were largely defeated in one election
cycle, our rights are safe.
Those who cherish gun owners’ civil rights, and the human right of self-defense, cannot
afford to become complacent.