Gun sales for 2016 to topple previous year’s record

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22-year-old WMU student Colin Sytsma shoots his AR-15 rifle.

Photo by Chris Hung

22-year-old WMU student Colin Sytsma shoots his AR-15 rifle.

American gun company shares are down, but gun sales are up amidst election scares and Black Friday sales.

After Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, popular handgun manufacturer Smith & Wesson saw a 25 percent decrease in their share price in just two days.

Similarly, .22 caliber firearm giant, Ruger fell from from a high of $64.40 a share to just $47.50 a share in the same amount of time. This plunge was the result of the end of a period of pre-election uncertainty.

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Stock data highlight election day crash of Smith & Wesson and Ruger, both firearm manufacturers.

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Market instability is common for unpredictable presidential election years. Since 1928, the S&P 500 benchmark of measuring stocks drops nearly 2.8 percent on average every year that the incumbent president is not up for reelection.

Advertisement used by Beretta on their website on election day.

Advertisement used by Beretta on their website on election day.

Some companies tried to take advantage of these feelings. Building off fear that Second Amendment rights may be threatened, firearm manufacturer Beretta announced a pre-election sale to American markets for a 20 percent price cut to all ammunition magazines.

Upon checkout on Beretta’s online shopping site on election day, a statement in red text read, “for gun owners this is the most important election ever.”

Defying these feelings and predictions that Trump’s victory would slow gun sales, especially on Black Friday, this year yielded the most background checks in a single day: 185,713, according to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, the number of checks is only a few hundred more than last year’s Black Friday. While background checks and gun sales are not synonymous and cannot be compared on a one-to-one scale, the similar number of checks to last year’s is indicative that sales were not slowed or accelerated by much.

Smith & Wesson and Ruger have yet to recover from this election’s fall, even the surge of Black Friday sales have not restored their shares to pre-election levels.

“There’s been a recent uptick of sales, actually,” said Charles Kubinski, general manager of firearm store and shooting range Center Mass. “People were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get guns if the election went one way or another.”

Another employee at Center Mass described the store as hectic on Black Friday.

“We had a mix of buyers, then and now,” said Kubinski. “All races, men and women, people between 25 and 40, even 60 to 70 years old came in.”

This year saw the highest number of recorded background checks for firearm purchases: 24,767,514 through November, according to the NICS. That’s over a million and a half more than all of last year already, a 7 percent increase.

A pattern of increased background checks from the year prior to an election year has been in place since 2008. Though the trend continued for 2016, it did not supersede the 2012 election change in checks.

Since 2008, election years have seen increases in firearm background checks.

Since 2008, election years have seen increases in firearm background checks.

“Half of my purchases this year were politically motivated,” said Colin Sytsma, a 22-year-old Western Michigan University student and a regular at Center Mass.

Sytsma is the owner of Glock handgun and an AR-15 rifle that he built himself, and is one in over 800,000 concealed pistols licence holders in the state of Michigan.

Between November to December of last year, there was a nearly 1.1 million jump in background checks — the largest leap month to month in the database’s history. A spike from November to December has been recorded every year. If trends are to continue, the month of December could widen the record for 2016 even further for most amount of firearm checks.

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