U.S. gun sales slip, but still remain strong

Published on Saturday, 2 August 2014 22:21 - Written by Steve Knight outdoor@tylerpaper.com

Just a year ago gun sales were hotter than a pistol.

That was then and this is now.

You had to know it was not going to last forever. No one can stoke the political fires forever, and when 2nd Amendment issues are quiet in Washington gun sales slow.

“You could call it a slow down, or it died,” said Rodney Eschberger, owner of Noonday Gun Trader. “They are about where they were at pre-2008. Maybe a little better than that, but we have been on a Christmas rush since Obama ran for president and Hillary (Clinton) did all of her talking.”

The rush to gun ownership has coincided with President Obama’s time in office. However, it didn’t start immediately. It took a couple of years before the public got nervous, but when they did gun dealers nationwide experienced sales like never seen before.

From 1999 through 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, gun sales rocked along annually at between 7 and 9 million, according to FBI Nation Instant Check System data provided by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The numbers inched up to 9.5 million during Obama’s first two years and then retail sales exploded to record heights. They topped 10.7 million in 2011, 13.7 million in 2012 and 14.7 million last year.

Through June of this year nationwide gun sales have declined 1.8 million.

Eschberger thinks the reason is simply the lack of a political threat.

“They are for all practical purposes not making any political promises. There are some still making wild comments on both sides, but most people realize (any potential legislation) is a dead horse,” he said.

That seems to be the sentiment nationwide as well.

“We are hearing that people are no longer worried about the passage of highly restrictive federal gun control laws,” said Michael Bazinet, Director of Public Affairs for the NSSF, a firearms industry trade organization. “That concern was a component of higher firearms sales.”

Looking at the record-setting 2013 it probably comes as no surprise that Texas led all states in sales with 1.35 million. Even during the traditional slow months of June and July Texas gun dealers still sold almost 80,000 guns per month.

It probably also comes as no surprise that Florida would rank second on the sales list and that Pennsylvania and Missouri would also rank high. What might not be suspected is that states like California, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio were among the top 10 states in gun sales in 2013.

While this year’s reduction in sales is being felt, dealers are still moving more guns than they did five years ago. Through June this year Texas gun dealers have sold almost 555,000 firearms, and are on par with 2012, the second biggest year for gun sales in the NICS era. In 2008, they sold 339,000 the first half of the year. Still, it was the 720,000 sold in six months in 2013 that has become the benchmark in the gun industry.

“Even though firearms sales have slowed compared to the truly historic volume we saw in 2013, they are still quite healthy by historic standards and demonstrate the continuing popularity of the shooting sports. Pricing has eased and there are definitely good values to be found right now,” NSSF’s Basinet said.

Eschberger said the drop in demand has created a buyers’ market for those still interested in buying a gun. Not expecting the dip, manufacturers overbuilt and are sitting on inventory. That is especially the case with so-called modern sporting rifles. To reduce inventory the manufacturers are offering specials that in some cases have brought prices down almost half of what they were when demand was high.

In contrast that has led to some unhappy gun owners who would like to be sellers.

“I am seeing people who bought three or four ARs and put them in the closet or shot them once. Now they are bringing them back and saying they don’t need them. The problem is the guns are not selling like they were and manufacturers have dropped prices. Some of them paid $2,500 or $2,600 for them and I am selling those same guns now for $499,” Eschberger said.

While sales may be slowing, Eschberger knows dealers are only one political hot button away from the next boom.

“Since I started selling guns we have been through this several times. In 1989 when they banded AKs from China we went through this. Then when Bill (Clinton) was elected we went through a crazy rush. In Y2K we went through the same crazy rush. I enjoyed it and would like to see one more rush before I retire,” he said