Want To Make A Million In The Gun Business? Start With Two Million.

On July 1, 2016, a stock called American Outdoor Brands (AOBC) hit an all-time high of $30 bucks a share.  In case you didn’t know it, AOBC is actually Smith & Wesson, whose ownership decided to diversify the company into an outdoor sporting conglomerate basically to cover up the fact that all they really make and sell are guns. The company President, Jim Dabney, announced the new name back in December 2016 with this statement: “We believe that American Outdoor Brands Corp. is a name that truly represents our broad and growing array of brands and businesses in the shooting, hunting and rugged outdoor enthusiast markets.”

sw             This strategy replaced an earlier strategy which had S&W marketing all kinds of consumer crap – blankets, clothing, watches, jewelry – that can now be found on eBay for a fraction of what the stuff originally cost. Once the geniuses who run S&W realized that the only thing which consumers would purchase that carried the company’s distinctive name were guns, forget about promoting the brand through other channels, let’s just buy some small companies with other brand names.

Except the problem is that consumer brands that don’t carry a high price-tag usually don’t market products that anyone really wants to buy. Ever hear of a brand called Bog-Pod? How’s about Hooyman or Old Timer?  These are some of the products which the company claims will help it build a “rich, diverse product and brand offering to address new opportunities in the rugged outdoor markets.”  Hey guys, stick with the guns, okay?

Actually, for a few years the boys at 2100 Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield read the handwriting on the wall correctly, marketing a cheap line of AR-15 rifles, which boosted overall revenues significantly and got the company into the expanding tactical rifle market at exactly the right time.  The company first began shipping its ‘black gun’ in 2006, by 2010 they were selling more than 100,000 units each year, the other major assault-rifle manufacturers (Bushmaster, DPMS) were producing about half that number each year.

There’s only one little problem with the success story, however, which is that what goes up in the gun business can also go right back down.  Which is exactly what happened to AR sales by the end of the Obama regime, if only because at a certain point everyone who wanted to own what is euphemistically referred to as a ‘modern sporting rifle’ had one sitting at home.

But gun makers are used to dealing with market saturation because, if nothing else, the things they manufacture don’t wear out.  If you sell someone a droid, for example, chances are that a certain number will have to be replaced within a year or so. Selling someone one droid usually means that the manufacturer will rack up another sale. Not so with guns, which is why companies like S&W knew that at some point sales of their assault rifles would go flat.

But what S&W didn’t know, what nobody in the gun industry could predict, was the firestorm which erupted after the Parkland massacre which was aimed at the whole gun industry, but obviously is a bigger threat to companies which make black guns, of whom S&W happens to be the biggest target of all.  When a global asset manager like Black Rock and a commercial bank like Bank of America announce they want to meet with gun makers to see what the industry’s response will be to what happened in Parkland, we’re not talking about the ‘arm teachers’ nonsense peddled by the White House idiot, we’re talking what counts: bucks.

What we say in the gun business is that if you want to make a million, start with two million. If you bought 50,000 shares of S&W on July 1, 2016 yesterday the joke would have come true.

Which is why S&W stock closed yesterday at under $10, the lowest price since the end of 2014.  If you owned 100,000 shares of S&W  on July 1, 2016 and held those shares today, your investment would have lost  2 million bucks.


Khalil Spencer: The Gun War Is Joined.

I’ve said before that the firearms community should be involved in firearms violence prevention. Two reasons come to mind. One, we know more about firearms than the typical non-shooter. Two, we need to engage and try to reduce the harm out there while moderating the discussion. Unfortunately, the loudest voices are not always the most careful ones. While some of the gun violence prevention folks tend to suggest ideas that many gun owners loathe, the 2nd Amendment purists are typically the Party of No, regardless of the question.

spencer2As a result of the latest high school shooting in Florida, all Hell is breaking loose on the “gun prevention”, so to speak, side. An example is the Sunday editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican, which pretty much threw everything the Editorial Board could think of at gun owners and then tossed the kitchen sink along for good measure. Given the blood-soaked circumstances, who can blame them? Among the suggestions are”…bans on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, better background checks and numerous other laws…an amendment to the state constitution removing the prohibition on local governments passing any gun restrictions, or even rewriting a provision upholding gun rights…” A law abiding citizen who has never raised a gun in anger might find himself or herself suddenly on the wrong side of the law simply by virtue of having bought a gun with a 12 rd magazine. Its not even about “common sense gun laws” but about retaliation for the NRA and GOP’s intransigence and, as many Progressives would like to do, make many if not most of today’s modern, high capacity semiauto guns (see below) scarce and inconvenient to own.

But protecting the 2A, and the state constitution’s analog, from emasculation should not have as a price tag more and more bullet-spattered schools, theatres, and churches. Something is going seriously wrong in the country and its not just one issue but as our Los Alamos Catholic priest said yesterday, a host of variables are responsible of which the firearm is the enabler, even if the culture is the ultimate culprit. As anyone who reads knows, we have always had guns. Lots of them. Actual household ownership rates are probably down even as sheer numbers have gone up (based on recent research). What’s changed?

When I was a teen, I legally carried a box of 22 Long Rifle ammo to school in my book bag as I was a member of the Rifle Club. One could mail order a rifle or walk into the local K Mart and see racks and racks of military surplus, “NRA-Fair-Good-Excellent” rifles that could be had for a few greenbacks. Indeed, these could be had without telling your life story to the FBI’s NICS system as these were pre-background check days.  Most of those surplus guns were purchased to be modified to be sporting and hunting rifles. We didn’t have endless mass shootings by me-too youths, or self-styled militias of the right and left parading under banners of intolerance. Its the culture that has changed, and in part, the kinds of guns flying off the shelves reflects the change in culture. Guns used to be primarily for sport and secondarily for guarding the hearth. Nowdays, Gun Culture 2.0, as Wake Forest Sociology Professor David Yamane calls it, is about self defense and even the shooting sports reflect that, i.e., NRA Precision Pistol has given way to International Defensive Pistol Association matches. The look and function of the guns follows the paradigm shift. Black rifles, high capacity or pocket pistols, and short barrelled shotguns with only a pistol grip to make them street legal replace Grandpa or Dad’s Model 70 Winchester or Smith and Wesson revolver.When you are planning for a personal defense moment, more bullets are better. My concern, articulated here before, is that Maslow’s Hammer has become, in part due to this paradigm-shift in gun culture, Maslow’s Handgun.

I think those of us who enjoy firearms need to hustle over to the Middle of the Road and help find some solutions. For the life of me, I don’t know why an immature nineteen year old with emotional problems should be able to walk out of a gun store with a weapon designed to control a battlefield, no questions, other than the innocuous NICS ones, asked. As I have said before, anyone old enough to get a driver’s license can drive. Not everyone is allowed to drive a Freightliner. If I want to drive a Freightliner, I owe it to society to show I can handle it safely.

As far as armed teachers and the like? Aside from the fact that teachers are underpaid as it is while not being asked to get into firefights with heavily armed terrorists, surprise matters. Pearl Harbor showed that its not enough to be armed. A school shooting is a surprise attack, and will succeed just as the Japanese naval air forces succeeded. Sure, someone can eventually shoot back to limit the damage but meanwhile, people are getting shot. More guns is not the answer. More sanity, perhaps, is.

Let’s Hear It For Those Parkland Kids.

Yesterday I wrote a column talking about how the post-Parkland gun debate is different from all previous post-shooting debates because of the spontaneous emergence of social media networks driven by high school kids. I’m not saying this is anything other than coincidence, but today’s New York Times is carrying a major article which basically says the same thing. Except that the NYT story goes beyond my basic point, describing in detail about how national gun-control organizations like Everytown have mobilized lobbyists, members and advertising to respond to the usual pro-gun defenses from the other side.

parkland4              Most of what the NYT reportage said about the new-found strength of the gun-control community is correct. But their understanding of what is really driving the dynamics of what they refer to as the ‘anti-gun’ movement misses the larger point. Obviously, having Trump in the White House, as opposed to Obama, creates a fundamental difference when it comes to the public debate about guns. And it certainly is the case that what Trump says today about gun control may be very different from what he’ll say the next day or the next.

Trump’s behavior reminds me of what Sitting Bull once said about Crazy Horse after the massacre of Custer at the Little Bighorn in 1876.  Back in 1868, both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse agreed to a treaty which the U.S. Government broke before the ink was dry. Crazy Horse then claimed that he never signed the document, but when asked whether Crazy Horse did sign the treaty Sitting Bull replied, “Of course he signed – Crazy Horse would do anything for a free meal.”

So now we have someone sitting in the Oval Office who will say anything to grab the media spotlight, no matter whether he means it or not. Will Trump really push for increasing the minimum age for purchasing guns? Will he try to get the DOJ to figure out a legal maneuver that would ban bump stocks?  Who knows what’s on his mind, but mind or not, I can tell you this: If Hillary Clinton was the 45th President, she would have gotten on Air Force One and flown down to Florida no later than the day after the shooting, done the requisite hospital visit, then thanked the first responders, photo-ops at every stop. At some point there would have been a tearful, emotional speech and a demand that Congress do what they should have done after Sandy Hook; i.e., pass some kind of legislation to ‘end this horrifying gun violence’ or words to that effect.

Wayne-o Lapierre talked for 37 minutes yesterday at CPAC, a speech which was the ‘official’ response to Parkland by the NRA. He started off with the usual bromides about the ‘terrible tragedy,’ this and that, but then went into a long rant about how the Democratic Party had been taken over by a European-style ‘socialist’ elite, whose headway had been briefly stopped by the election of Trump. The way Wayne-o rambled on and on about this threat, you would have thought that Barack Obama was still in the White House trying to figure out how to push the country further to the Left.

Every time there was a mass shooting since 2008, Gun-nut Nation could and did respond by attacking the guy from Kenya and turning gun control into an issue between ‘us’ – the good guys – versus ‘them.’ Which is exactly how Trump behaved throughout his entire Presidential campaign as well as his tenure in the Oval Office until February 14 when everything changed. And what changed is that, for the very first time, the public debate about a political issue is being defined by the kids. Not by the lobbyists, not by the organizations, not by the media and the editorial boards, but by the kids.

The best thing which has ever happened to the movement to end gun violence is that we no longer have a friend at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Thank God for the kids.

There’s A New Player On The Gun-Control Field.

Now that the gun industry’s response to Parkland has been effectively communicated to all relevant noisemakers from Trump on down, maybe it’s time for the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement to evaluate what they are saying in a calm and dispassionate way. Because like it or not, the chances of getting rid of assault rifles are slim to none, but I can see the Republican leadership jumping around gleefully imagining how a program to put armed guards in every school might play out in the upcoming elections on November 8, 2018.

CPACNobody takes That Schmuck in the White House (TSWH) seriously when he suggested that one out of every five school teachers should be armed.  But what if the GOP decided to add a few more billions to the deficit by coming up with the money that would allow every school district to hire some more cops? You wouldn’t get an argument from the police unions, that’s for sure.

A week after the Sandy Hook massacre, Wayne-o gave a belligerent press conference in which he denounced any talk about new gun regulations and unveiled the NRA’s new school security program, National School Shield, which if implemented, would keep killers away from schools. The program was a hodgepodge of the usual security stuff, first an assessment of school security needs, then a conference with a security professional, then a plan to do this and that, then everyone’s secure.

The program went nowhere, of course, because the NRA was too busy promoting its concealed-carry agenda, including an insurance program for folks who get arrested because they shot some guy coming through the front door even though this ‘street thug’ was the UPS driver delivering a pair of those LL Bean winter boots. But at today’s CPAC conference, where Wayne-o spent most of his talking time reminding the audience that the Democratic Party was now completely under the control of ‘European-style, socialist elites,’ he also pulled out the School Shield program again and no doubt will try to make a deal with Trump, trading a ban on bump stocks for armed guards in every school.

This list may be somewhat incomplete, but the data appears to support the idea that there have been 12 mass shootings at educational sites since the Columbine massacre in 1999, resulting in 167 deaths. Of this total, only 4 occurred in primary or secondary schools, although three of the four worst massacres took place at Columbine, Parkland and Sandy Hook. These horrific events should not blind us to the fact, however, that primary and secondary schools remain locations where little fatal injuries take place. For the 2013 – 2014 school year, according to the Department of Education, there were 26 homicides in 98,000 primary and secondary public schools with a total enrollment of 98 million kids. That’s pretty safe.

Putting a police resource officer in every school sounds like a great idea, but if any police department were to ask for additional monies to hire more cops, the first question which would be asked was whether the particular jurisdiction was experiencing more crime. And if the DOE mean anything at all, putting a cop or armed guard in every school would be like using the elephant to swat the fly.

The real problem that TSWH and the NRA have is that for the very first time, they aren’t dealing with a reaction to gun violence which is led by the usual suspects – Schumer, Feinstein, et. al. Even Rush went out of his way yesterday to assure his audience that his comments about how the ‘Left’ always politicizes mass shootings was not meant, in any way, to disparage the Parkland kids.

I hate to say it, but it may have taken a senseless slaughter of some high school students to invigorate the GVP movement with a new kind of leadership whose motives and credibility are beyond reproach. We’ll soon see if the playing-field for dealing with gun violence continues to tilt their way.


Will Trump Lead The Way on Gun Control?

I think the only political event in my lifetime which made a greater impression on me that the assassination of JFK was the announcement in February, 1972 that Nixon was going to China for a meeting with Mao-Tse Tung. After all, I had come of age during the Cold War, and nothing was colder than our relationship or non-relationship with the People’s Republic, a diplomatic freeze which had existed since 1949. And in the intervening 23 years, whenever any public figure even hinted that perhaps it was time for us to rethink a policy that left us unable to communicate with a government that represented one-quarter of the entire population of the globe, it was Nixon who always jumped up screaming ‘Commie, Commie,’ and the idea was quickly shelved.

prayer            Nixon’s entire political career was steeped in anti-Communism.  He was elected to the House in 1946 and quickly established himself as a passionate hunter of Communists hiding under every bed in the government, culminating with his campaign against Alger Hiss. Using the Hiss case to elevate himself to national prominence, he won a Senate seat in 1950 by running a smear campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas whom he called ‘the pink lady.’ When Eisenhower decided to burnish his Presidential campaign with appeals to the anti-Communist right, Nixon was the perfect choice for the ticket in 1952.

When Nixon opened the door to China, it was his unquestioned anti-Communist credentials which allowed him to get away with a political gambit that would have ruined the career of any politician sporting even the mildest of liberal stripes. And if That Schmuck in the White House (TSWH) is actually serious about responding to Parkland with some kind of restrictions on guns, he’ll get away with it because his political base will have no choice but to agree.

Tell you the truth, I always thought that Trump’s fervent embrace of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ was really nothing more than just saying whatever he needed to say to position himself as the opposite of HRC. And I knew this not just because he had been on record as being in favor of the assault weapons ban, but more so because he’s a New York guy and New Yorkers just don’t share the alt-white’s passion for guns. Gun ‘rights’ just aren’t in the political DNA of anyone in New York, in the same way that you would have to dig pretty deep to find anyone in a gun-rich state like South Carolina who would favor any kind of ban on guns.

When the idea of a bump-stock ban was first floated around after Las Vegas, the NRA issued this statement: “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” So, like it or not, TSWH has Gun-nut Nation in his pocket if he wants to move forward with any plan to regulate guns. And his announcement that the Justice Department will figure out a way to ban bump-stocks would reverse a 2014 ATF ruling which declared such accessory items to be legal for sale.

In order to reverse or change the ATF finding, the government would have to redefine the definition of what constitutes a legal firearm; i.e., any firearm which can be owned without going through the tiresome and costly NFA procedure now required for ownership of a full-auto gun. Such a rewrite of the definition of a legal gun would require changes to the federal gun laws passed in 1934 and 1968. But don’t forget that before Nixon met with Mao, it was illegal for American citizens to enter mainland China, a law which was then quickly changed.

From 2009 until 2016 the gun industry called Obama the best salesman they ever had. Is there any chance that the NRA’s best White House buddy could end up as the guy who rolled back gun ‘rights?’ The gun-control movement better not indulge themselves into thinking that it would never take place.


Thomas Gabor: Gun Licensing Could Have Prevented Parkland Shooting

Tragically, fellow Americans, this time in Parkland, Florida, have once again been slaughtered ruthlessly by a young man wielding a weapon of war.  This is well past the time to discuss how these events can be prevented.  One does not need to be an expert to conclude that military-style weapons that can receive external magazines capable of holding 10-100 rounds of ammunition have no role in civilian life, other than to murder as many people as possible in the shortest time span.

parkland3Aside from banning these weapons, we need to do much better in screening individuals for their fitness to possess, own, or carry firearms.  In a January 8th post, I laid out some preliminary ideas for a national gun licensing system, although such a system could also be established at the state level.  The rationale is simple:  People operating a variety of forms of machinery and in many occupations require a license to ensure they meet certain requirements and maintain their qualifications to continue to engage in those activities.  In Florida, for example, licenses are required of motor vehicle operators, barbers and cosmetologists, mold remediation services, contractors in the construction industry, and many others.  If those operating cars and construction machinery need a license, it stands to reason that those owning and operating lethal weapons also ought to be licensed.

I mentioned in the previous post that expanding background checks to all gun sales and tinkering with our current system of checks is the low-hanging fruit with regard to reform as 95% of Americans support such actions.  Unfortunately, the obsession of gun safety advocates with this system has led us to lose sight of fundamental flaws in the way we screen prospective gun buyers.  Searching FBI electronic databases is not sufficient as, aside from clerical errors (seen in the lead-up to the Charleston church shooting) and the failure to forward data to the FBI (seen in the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting), every criminologist knows that official criminal records represent just the tip of the iceberg with regard to someone’s criminality and will miss troubling warning signs.  I therefore propose a comprehensive screening process including:

  • An in-person interview with law enforcement;
  • Reference checks;
  • Where applicable, notifying a current or former domestic partner of a license application;
  • Successful completion of gun safety and skills training provided by law enforcement or security firms;
  • Certificate of mental aptitude for applicants under 26 years of age; and,
  • A waiting period of 10 business days.

The shooter at Stoneman Douglas High School, just like many previous mass shooters, obtained his weapons legally.  The proposed licensing system may have prevented him from obtaining his weapons at four different stages of the process:

  1. The in-person interview may have uncovered some troubling attitudes on the part of the shooter in relation to guns. He may have even been deterred from pursuing a license due to the need for an interview.  With the private sale loophole closed, he may have either given up the idea of purchasing a gun or been forced into the illegal market.  With an accompanying assault weapons ban, the supply will eventually be reduced dramatically, substantially elevating the price of an illegal AR-15, which can cost $1,500 with all the accessories when purchased legally.  An illegal purchase might cost several times that amount, making it inaccessible to most young persons.
  2. Reference checks with peers, family (in this case surrogate family) members, school personnel, and social media checks would have uncovered his troubling behavior, statements, and threats.
  3. The psychological evaluation done for the certificate of mental aptitude may have uncovered disturbing attitudes and intentions.
  4. Even the requirement that he receive rigorous safety training—something not required to purchase a gun in Florida—may have raised some red flags for instructors.

No system is foolproof but experience with licensing in virtually every other advanced country with far better outcomes than the US indicates that it is time to develop such a regulatory system.  A national system is preferably to state licensing, as porous state borders mean that individuals who would be denied a license in one state can obtain firearms in nearby states that have lower standards.

Tom Gabor, Ph.D.

Criminologist and Sociologist

Author, Confronting Gun Violence in America (Amazon’s #1 new release in Criminology)


What Do All Mass Shootings Have In Common? A Gun

It turns out the Florida Department of Social Services conducted a review of Nikolas Cruz’s behavior and decided he was at ‘low risk’ for hurting himself or anyone else. The good news about this report is that it takes the onus off the FBI, whose investigation into the shooter’s background led nowhere fast. The bad news is that neither of these investigations prevented Cruz from buying a gun.

parkland              Gun-nut Nation hasn’t yet begun trumpeting their usual mantra about how even the ‘mentally ill’ don’t necessarily forfeit their Constitutional ‘rights;’ Wayne-o will wait at least another week until he gets a wink from the Oval Office and then issues his now-standard nonsense about how every school in American needs an armed guard.  In the meantime, the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement will ramp up their demand for a renewed ban on assault rifles, carefully sidestepping the fact that Seung-Hui Cho, who used to hold the American record for most homicides in a single, mass shooting, managed to kill 32 people at Virginia Tech using a semi-automatic pistol, the Glock 19. For that matter, the kid who almost murdered Gabby Giffords in a Tucson parking lot on January 8, 2011, managed to kill and wound 20 people with a Glock 19.

What do these rampage shooters and so many others of the same ilk have in common?  Sorry, it’s not the fact that they used an AR-15, because that’s not always the case. On the other hand, if we look at the personal histories of the shooters at Aurora,The Pulse, Virginia Tech, Santa Isla, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Umpqua CC, we find a disturbing pattern; namely, all of them were either treated by mental health professionals, or were investigated by law enforcement authorities, but as far as we can tell, none of the individuals who intervened with the shooters ever asked them about guns.

Nancy Lanza, for example, the mother of the kid who shot his way through the elementary school at Sandy Hook, dragged her son hither and yon for mental health treatments, while at the same time that she was building an arsenal for his use. The Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, was admitted overnight to an on-campus mental health facility because he had threatened to take his own life, but the report covering his contact with a staff professional makes no mention of guns. At the request of his mother, the Santa Isla shooter, Elliot Rodger, was interviewed by the cops the day before he started his shooting spree, but the issue of guns was never raised.

Let me make one thing very clear. I am not trying in any way to raise doubts about the professionalism or dedication of anyone in either the mental health or law enforcement communities. This column is not an attempt to imply or infer blame. What I am simply trying to point out is that for all the talk about banning assault weapons on the one hand, or better mental health screening on the other, what I see again and again leading up to these horrific events is a tacit acceptance of the idea that a professional intervention with a troubled individual somehow occurs without any mention of guns.

This may come as a great shock to my friends in Gun-nut Nation, but asking someone whether they own or have access to a gun isn’t a violation of anyone’s Constitutional ‘rights.’. And this statement applies equally as well to my friends in the GVP who sometimes appear overly concerned about respecting the 2nd Amendment, regardless of whose ox then gets gored. If you walk up to any adult in the street, the odds are one out of three that this individual can get their hands on a gun, in some neighborhoods more, in others less. Would you look the other way if you thought this same person might be infected with Ebola virus or some other virulent, communicable disease?  According to the CDC, Ebola killed 29,000 people during the outbreak in 2014. That’s nothing compared to the 38,658 Americans who were killed with guns in 2016.