At Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Joshua Green reports that for all the fearmongering from gun activists, President Obama has actually helped the gun industry, which he says has seen huge sales during his presidency:
In the time since he took office, gun sales have soared. The government doesn't track individual sales. But the FBI criminal background check required to purchase a gun is considered a reasonable proxy, and these have hit record numbers each year Obama has been in office. This year, they're on track to surpass 15 million for the first time.
Ruger has done especially well. Since Obama's inauguration the company's stock price has risen more than 400 percent, making it a better investment than gold, which is up 113 percent. "They've been outstanding in offering new products, especially in the concealable handgun segment," says Jim Barrett, an analyst at CL King who tracks the gun industry and rates the company a "strong buy."
Analysts anticipated a brief jump in firearm sales after the election as many gun owners, fearful that a new Democratic President would move to ban assault weapons, fortified their home arsenals. "Initially, what spiked were the tactical rifles, the stuff Rambo might use," says Barrett. As a result, 2009 was "a blockbuster year."
So was 2010. And so is 2011.
CEO Michael O. Fifer alluded to this concern in a July sales call. "I think half of the people in the firearms industry, if asked, would hope [Obama] is not President, but then will secretly go out and vote for him again," Fifer said.
Not all the available data suggests that such a boom is occurring. Indeed, the number of households owning a gun has been in long term decline. But whether or not the gun industry and their enablers have actually succeeded in increasing gun sales by frightening Americans gun owners into thinking that confiscation is around the corner, there's certainly no doubt that they've tried to do so.
While Green does a great job in pointing to the National Rifle Association's role in ginning up the fears of government confiscation of firearms in order to boost gun sales (a role for which they are rewarded by donations from the gun industry), he leaves out the right-wing media's important position in this cycle.
Following President Obama's election, several right-wing radio hosts including Sean Hannity warned their listeners that the new administration would outlaw and confiscate all guns. At roughly the same time, the Los Angeles Times reported that "gun buyers across the country are flocking to gun stores to stock up on assault rifles, handguns and ammunition."
Since then, the right-wing media has regularly pushed similar claims. They've baselessly warned of the alleged confiscatory tendencies of Nancy Pelosi and Sonia Sotomayor. They've used everything from the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabby Giffords (R-AZ) to the recent rule requiring gun dealers to inform the ATF when someone buys more than one of certain types of guns a week to promote their conspiracies.
These kinds of dishonest claims may boost the bottom line of the gun industry, but they also bring with them a body count. In April 2009, Richard Poplawski, a 22-year-old neo-Nazi, shot and killed three police officers who were responding to a domestic disturbance call at his Pittsburgh home. According to one of his friends, Poplawski was afraid of "the Obama gun ban that's on the way." He also reportedly "loved Glenn Beck," who regular promotes these gun confiscation conspiracies.
Indeed, Beck responded to the Pittsburgh shooting by both denying any personal responsibility for the crime and claiming that Obama "will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun." In June, Beck went as far to ask his audience, "why would you get a gun?" before pointing to a picture of President Obama and regulatory official Cass Sunstein.
How does the right-wing media benefit from stoking the fears of their audience in this manner? Just as the NRA is the recipient of gun industry donations, conservative radio hosts may find themselves the recipients of gun industry advertising. It is a lucrative cycle, but potentially a deadly one.