The tragic killing of 50 people at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub is having a predictable effect Monday on the stocks of gun makers. Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: SWHC) traded up more than 8% in the premarket and Sturm Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR) traded up more than 4%. Ammunition maker Vista Outdoor Inc. (NYSE: VSTO) traded up about 2%.
There are two likely reasons for the spike. First, mass killings always raise calls for more gun control which, in turn, dims the long-term view for the gun makers but increases the near-term demand as people buy more guns ahead of any possible future restrictions. Second, many Americans believe that incidents like the Orlando shooting mean that now is the time to buy a firearm for personal protection.
According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), applications for background checks required for purchasing a gun in the first five months total about 11.7 million, just over half the 23.14 million applications filed in 2015. The number fell to 1.87 million in May, the first month this year when applications slipped below 2 million.
Following last December’s shooting in San Bernardino, California, applications for background checks jumped from 2.2 million in November to 3.3 million in December. After the Sandy Hook school shooting in December of 2014, applications rose from 1.8 million in November to 2.3 million in December.
Both gunmakers’ stocks had been trading lower for the year to date. Ruger shares were down about 3.7% through Friday’s close, and S&W’s stock was down about 2.6%. On Friday, Ruger closed down 3.5% and S&W closed down 2.7%. Vista closed down about 1.4% on Friday but is up nearly 5.7% for the year to date.
A report Monday morning from CNBC noted that short interest in Smith & Wesson had risen 370% since January and the short interest in Ruger was up 26% in the same period. The Orlando killings are very likely to prompt short sellers to close those positions as soon as possible, giving the gun makers’ shares more of a near-term boost.
Just after the opening bell, Smith & Wesson traded up 9.5% to $23.44, in a 52-week range of $14.71 to $30.44.
Ruger stock traded up 7.9%, at $61.98 in a 52-week range of $48.10 to $78.09.
Vista traded up 2.9%, at $48.40 in a 52-week range of $41.34 to $53.91.
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