In small brown-brick that sits in the shadow of Pensacola Christian College, Ammunition Sales Company has had brisk sales since the 2008 presidential election. Democratic presidents are very good for those in the gun and ammunition business.
“Just prior to the 2008 election, it was insane,” said Larry Blackburn, owner of Ammunition Sales Company. “You couldn’t get guns. The 380 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) ammunition, which is used for self-defense, wasn’t available for up to a year after being sold out. Concealed carry handguns, such as the AR-15, I couldn’t even keep in stock.”
In the months leading up to the 2008 election, Pensacola firearms vendors saw a significant increase in sales, mainly concealed carry weapons and permits. They also saw a new and diverse group of first-time gun owners and purchasers. Blackburn, as well as several other local gun dealers interviewed by the IN, believe that the sales increase was due to fear of presidential frontrunner then-Sen. Barack Obama and rumors of more restrictive gun laws being enacted if he was elected.
“Fear of politics, crime, and increased restrictions all drove the increase in sales,” said Rick Bankston, owner of Buck & Bass Sporting Goods, a retailer on Pine Forest Road near the Pensacola Interstate Fairground. According to Bankston, people thought they needed to “get one before it’s too late.”
In the frenzy that normally surrounds leadership changes, the American way of business and entrepreneurship often makes opportunity for the waters between politics and good business to become murky.
Online gun retailer Ammo.net best summed up the situation when it labeled President Obama “the greatest gun salesman of the year” in an infographic published in February 2012. Websites and blogs recurrently supported by or affiliated with the Nation Rifle Association (NRA), such as gunbanobama.org, labeled Obama as “the most anti-gun President in American history” and claimed during his 2008 presidential campaign that he had “endorsed a 500 percent increase in the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition.”
With 2012 presidential race settling down to a battle between Pres. Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, gun retailers expectantly wait for increased business as November approaches. Bankston said he has not seen a significant increase in sales since the beginning of the year, but he was anticipating a “strong fall season.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, said at its January 2012 trade show that many indicators show the firearms industry will continue to thrive in a down economy and that the potential exists for another strong sales year in 2012.
“The $4 billion firearms and ammunition industry stands apart from other industries that are struggling in the slow economy,” said NSSF officials in a press release. “Demand for guns has continued at a robust pace since late 2008. NSSF estimates the industry is responsible for approximately 180,000 jobs and has impact on the U.S. economy of $28 billion.”
The question remains whether guns and gun control will be an issue this election season. So far neither the NRA official website or the Barack Obama official re-election website mention anything directly involving the President and gun laws. Pres. Obama, not unlike his time spent in office or previous to his election, has kept his opinions and plans regarding gun control at minimum.
However, the president makes no pretenses that he is pro-gun; his record wouldn’t support that. After the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Pres. Obama did say that he would work on developing new steps to gun safety, but how he intends to carry out those plans is still unclear.
In contrast, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is hard at work strengthening his base and appealing to one of the most powerful groups in the fall election: the NRA and its affiliates.
“We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners. Pres. Obama has not; I will,” Romney said when addressing the NRA in April. “We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen and those seeking to protect their homes and their families. Pres. Obama has not; I will.”
Those sound like the fighting words the NRA, NSSF, Larry Blackburn and Rick Bankston love to hear.