I just took a look at how much money the NRA is pouring into the 2014 election campaign and, as I suspected, they are going over the top to try and make the returns as red as possible on November 4th. In total they have spent nearly $20 million, which puts them in the Top 10 of major PACs giving money independent of specific campaigns.
Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. You would think that an organization as savvy as the NRA would have figured out by now that the more the country tilts to the Right, the more gun sales go down. It’s no secret that the election of Obama in 2008 gave the gun industry a much-needed boost, and his attempt to pass a new gun control law after Sandy Hook drove gun and ammunition sales through the roof. If the Senate turns red in November, you can kiss any further increase in the American civilian arsenal goodbye. In fact, the decline in gun sales has already begun and it threatens to get much worse.
Monthly background NICS totals, a fairly valid way to understand trends in gun sales, will probably top out in 2014 around where they were at the end of the previous year. But the monthly totals of more than 2 million checks which were common in 2013, have not occurred again since March of this year, and nobody in the industry is expecting this trend to reverse. Sig-Sauer announced a major layoff in July, Savage Arms followed with the same news in September after putting a large group on furlough back in June and July, and Smith & Wesson’s stock tumbled after the company announced that quarterly sales had fallen off by nearly 25 percent.
Not only does it appear that the time for federal gun legislation has passed and gone, but notwithstanding the effort by Bloomberg and Watts to support pro-gun control candidates at the state level, the chances of additional gun controls in red states is also slim to none. It appears, for example, that the ballot initiative in Washington State to expand background checks may pass, but that’s because in a statewide vote the Democratic voters along the coast easily outnumber the Republicans who dominate local politics in the rural, inland part of the state.
On the other hand, while there was a spate of gun legislation at the state level after Sandy Hook, nearly twice as many laws were passed that loosened rather than tightened gun restrictions, and the states which did increase legal controls over guns (NY, CT, NJ, MA) were, for the most part, blue states in the Northeast where gun ownership has never been all that strong. When gun makers think about their market they think the South, the rural Midwest and the western, mountain states. That’s where a majority of guns in this country are owned, and these areas, politically speaking, tend to be mostly colored red.
The NRA has been trying to widen the gun-buying demographic but have met with little success. Their digital network features a series of rather stupid, sanctimonious message videos by, among others, an African-American, a couple of women with the Laura Ingraham look and an Asian –American who also happens to be gay. But the average gun owner continues to age out of the population and despite the appearance of a new group called Students for Concealed Carry, college life and guns simply don’t mix.
The dirty little secret about the gun business is the only thing that promotes gun sales is the fear on the part of gun owners that their toys might disappear. But because on occasion these toys inflict real damage on innocent people, from time to time an effort is made to control or restrict their use with a consequent upsurge in the volume of arguments on both sides. Maybe Mike and Shannon should consider helping some red candidates rather than blue, because there’s nothing that will end America’s interest in guns faster than the knowledge that nobody’s going to take them away.