So Tuesday night around 9 PM we all learned that America’s pro-gun Presidential candidate was going to be the 45th President of the United States, and the gun industry responded to this signal event on Wednesday by embarking on financial collapse. Ruger, the largest sporting-arms manufacturer, saw its stock shares drop 14.4%, giving back a steady, 60-day climb; Smith & Wesson’s stock collapsed 15% and ended up where it was back in mid-June.
Now you would think that the gun industry would be exultant, given the prospects of what otherwise might have been. After all, had the election turned out the way it was supposed to turn out (thank you, Nate Silver, for not having the slightest idea what you were talking about) gun makers like Ruger, Smith, Glock and Sig would have been facing Armageddon with a White House occupant who appeared determined to finish now what her husband had been unable to do during his Presidential term.
Hillary’s loudest gun spiel, after all, consisted of going after gun makers over the liability issue and reversing the liability protections that the industry received under George Bush in 2005. The law, Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (a.k.a. PLCCA), basically shields gun makers from class-action suits (torts) brought by defendants who have suffered injuries from guns; i.e., they got shot. A gun maker can still be sued if a particular gun malfunctions and someone gets hurt; but if a gun functions mechanically the way it’s supposed to function, then there’s no liability at all. I mean, the whole point of a gun is that you point it at someone, pull the trigger and it goes – bang – right?
It was Clinton who came up with the idea of ‘rewarding’ gun companies by swapping an immunity from litigation with a new business model that, in the long run, would have put them out of business anyway. Basically, the gun makers would have agreed to rigorously monitor the selling and distribution practices of their thirty-odd national wholesale customers, as well as the thousands of retail dealers; in other words gun makers would be responsible for the business behavior of anyone and everyone who possessed a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and sold even a single one of their guns.
Back in the 1980’s when European handguns began appearing in the American market and threatening the dominance that American gun makers had always enjoyed, Smith & Wesson did a marketing survey and learned, to their surprise, that at the retail level, the market was both very wide and very thin. In most areas there were a couple of retailers who sold 100 Smiths ever year, but most dealers moved between 5 and 10 new guns. Many retailers worked part-time, others sold the guns on their back porch. Asking a factory in Springfield, MA, to make sure that some guy in Podunk, WV was following some ‘best practices’ manual was like going to the other side of the moon.
When Hillary began talking about scrapping PLCCA, this was just another way of saying that the gun industry needed to dry up and blow away. So you would think that her defeat, at least to gun makers, would release paroxysms of joy. But the truth is that what got those shares of Smith & Wesson and Ruger up to where they were before yesterday wasn’t all these new gun-buyers flooding into the market to buy all those guns whose annual production numbers have doubled since 2009; it was gun owners’ fear that all their toys would be taken away.
Know how many new gun owners have appeared in the last twenty years? About 10 million. Know how many guns have been manufactured or imported over that same span? About 190 million, give or take a few. And when were sales strongest? When a gun-grabber like Clinton or Obama was around. So now we have a stalwart 2nd-Amendment protector moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the 2nd Amendment doesn’t protect the manufacture of guns.