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Why Are Gun Sales Booming?

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Laying the Groundwork
President Obama, of course, hasn’t yet praised this upbeat sector of the economy—we haven’t seen him in Remington’s plant in Ilion, N.Y., donning a hard hat and congratulating machinists. No, President Obama would rather firearm manufacturers retool and begin making solar panels and windmill turbines.

So let’s step away from the sales charts and figures and take a look at the demographics that frighten President Obama and other anti-gun politicians and activists. There is, after all, a good bit of hope and change taking place—though not the kind President Obama likes. For example, Sanetti pointed out that in 1959 some 70 percent of the American public favored handgun bans, whereas today that number has flipped. He said, “We’ve been able to conclusively prove scientifically that, as John Lott wrote, more guns do equal less crime.”

In his 1998 book, More Guns, Less Crime, Lott analyzed FBI crime statistics from 1977 to 1993 and found that concealed carry laws resulted in a murder rate reduction of 8.5 percent, a rape reduction of 5 percent and an aggravated-assault reduction of 7 percent. This and research from historians and others began to factually turn the argument against the anti-gun crowd.

Meanwhile, the NRA also made it clear this is a freedom issue. This argument resonated even with people who don’t own firearms. Of course, the NRA has also been busy fighting for our Second Amendment rights, advocating for participation in the shooting sports, instructing people how to shoot and store firearms safely, working with police officers and the military, and doing myriad other things to benefit all Americans.

What isn’t often acknowledged is that all of this became the foundation for attracting more Americans to the shooting sports and to buying firearms for self-defense.

Growth in Right-to-Carry Opportunities

To see the effects of legislation and court decisions, consider the rise in the number of Right-to-Carry permits across America.

From the mid-1980s to today, America has become a mostly “shall-issue” nation with regard to Right-to-Carry permits. A “shall-issue” law requires that a concealed firearm permit be issued to any applicant who meets uniform, statewide standards adopted by the state’s legislature, rather than allowing issuing authorities to arbitrarily reject a qualified individual’s application. Shall-issue laws prevent local governments from arbitrarily refusing to issue permits.

The NRA has worked across the country to make this happen and continues today to fight in courtrooms, state legislatures and in Washington, D.C., for the right to keep and bear arms. Given how much progress we’ve seen, it’s easy to forget what a big factor this has been to increasing gun ownership and sales.

Just consider that, as this was being written, 41 states had Right-to-Carry laws. Thirty-eight of them had “shall-issue” laws. Also, a total of 49 states had laws that allow at least some people to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit. At press time, Illinois was the only state without such a provision.

To see what a big change this is, log on to Wikipedia.com. Wikipedia can’t always be trusted as a fact-based resource, but the flashing map on Wikipedia.com’s entry on “concealed carry in the u.s.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_carry_in_the_United_States) shows a color-coded map of the U.S. changing year-by-year from 1986 to today. Over those years the color changes show the spread of shall-issue laws.

It’s hard to overstate how important this has been to increasing gun ownership and reducing crime rates in America. For example, Florida has issued more than 2 million Right-to-Carry permits since adopting its law in 1987 and had 919,831 licensed permit holders as of March 2012. Nationally, the NSSF estimates there are 6.8 million Right-to-Carry permit holders today. This is up from about a million in the mid-1980s.

Since 1991, when violent crime peaked in the U.S., about half the states have adopted “shall-issue” laws; meanwhile, many other federal, state and local gun control laws have been eliminated or made less restrictive. Also, according to BATFE data, the number of privately owned guns has risen by about 100 million during this same time period. As all that happened, as of 2010, the nation’s murder rate had fallen 52 percent to a 47-year low, according to FBI statistics (www.fbi.gov/stats-services/crimestats). And it fell sharply again in 2011.

To continue this positive trend, last March U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., introduced S. 2213, the “Respecting States’ Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.” Under this self-defense bill, an individual who has met the requirements for a carry permit, or who is otherwise allowed by state law to carry a handgun, would be authorized to carry a handgun in any other state that issues such permits or does not prohibit Right-to-Carry. Each person would still be subject to the laws of each state. A similar bill (s. 2188) was introduced by Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va. This bill is the companion legislation to H.R. 822, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last November by a bipartisan vote of 272-154. (The NRA supports all of these bills.)

All of this pro-gun legislation has not only added to freedom, personal protection and a great deal of fun at ranges across America, but it has also, quite likely, helped increase the number of gun owners and, hence, firearm sales.

Shooting Sports Popularity
Another factor related to the aforementioned legislative and judicial victories has been the impact of popular television shows. Shows such as the History Channel’s Top Shots and Discovery Channel’s Sons of Guns have helped to showcase to a more mainstream audience that the shooting sports are fun.

Though it’s hard to measure the effect of such programs, there are numbers we can look to for answers. For example, the Boy Scouts of America reported that the number of “shotgun shooting” merit badges increased 27.8 percent from 1999 to 2010. Archery and rifle badges also increased. Further, NSSF statistics on female participation in the shooting sports show that from 2002 to 2010 the number of women shooting shotguns rose an estimated 30.2 percent, while the number of women participating in bow hunting increased 108.3 percent. Meanwhile, the number of hunters actually increased in many states during this economic downturn, and active-shooting sports, such as 3-Gun and sporting clays, have been growing nationally.

Another factor is an increase in gun collecting; in fact, here is one statistic that would boggle President Obama’s worldview: In 1975, the NSSF reports (using records from the BATFE) that 5,211 people had “Collector Type 3” federal firearms licenses, whereas in 2011, that number had skyrocketed to 60,063 people.

There are many other categories and statistics showing the tidal shift in gun ownership beneath this current wave of sales, all of which are related to legislative successes that have freed up our Second Amendment rights, as well as judicial victories and other successes.

However, all of that has been ignored or misunderstood by a mainstream media who would like to explain the whole thing as nothing more than fear mongering from gun nuts in fly-over country.

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