According to the latest report from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), FBI background checks for potential new gun owners are down nearly 9% year over year for the first six months of 2017, from 13.83 million in the first six months of 2016 to 12.6 million. The FBI completed 27.54 million background checks last year, the most since record-keeping began in 1998 and at least triple the number of background checks completed in every year between 1999 and 2005.
Gunmaker Sturm Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR) and Smith & Wesson maker American Outdoor Brands Corp. (NASDAQ: AOBC) both traded down in the early afternoon Tuesday. Yet, ammo maker Vista Outdoor Inc. (NASDAQ: VSTO) traded up about 1.5%. Since mid-June, both Ruger and American Brands Stock have fallen nearly 11%.
A recent poll by Pew Research reported that one in three Americans owns a gun. A similar poll conducted last June by CBS News reported that 36% of those surveyed either owned a gun or lived with someone who does.
While the percentage is fairly flat, the number of guns sold continues to increase. According to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a total of 4.44 million handguns were manufactured in the United States in 2015, along with 3.69 million rifles, 777,000 shotguns and 447,000 miscellaneous firearms. That totals about 9.36 million, of which about 343,500 were exported. Since 1986, only the 10.84 million firearms manufactured in 2013 surpasses the 2015 total.
Add to the 2015 total of 9 million that stayed in the United States, another 3.93 million imported firearms and nearly 13 million new firearms were on U.S. store shelves last year.
Who’s buying all these guns? The Pew Research poll revealed that 52% of National Rifle Association (NRA) members own five or more guns while 24% of non-NRA members own that many guns. A different CBS News poll in March of last year found that about 20% of gun owners own 10 or more guns. The number of American households with guns had fallen from 51% in 1978 to 36% in 2016.
How long can the same people keep buying more guns? At some point, even the most acquisitive gun owner is going to declare that he or she doesn’t need any more guns.
Following the November election of Donald Trump, Wedbush had the following comment on the gunmakers:
Although good for the long-term viability of the industry, we believe that the election results coupled with a Republican Congress and choice of Supreme Court justice(s) could be a net-negative for [American Outdoor Brands] as it eliminates any realistic fear of gun regulation, which has been a major driver of gun sales over the past eight years.
The numbers appear to back that up.