Donald Trump is great for the gun lobby and terrible for gun sales

Trump’s campaign received enormous support from the NRA.
Trump’s campaign received enormous support from the NRA.
Image: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Despite his (abandoned) former life as a backer of gun restrictions, during his campaign US president Donald Trump received more than twice as much from the National Rifle Association (NRA) as 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney. He has started to pay back the gun lobby’s loyalty.

First, he removed an Obama-era rule that aimed to stop mentally ill people buying guns. Today, he’ll be the first US president (paywall) since Ronald Reagan in 1983 to address the NRA’s annual convention. But despite his support, gun sales have dropped dramatically since he became president-elect. The best way of measuring firearm sales tends to be FBI instant background checks—in the first two months of Trump’s presidency these plummeted by 1 million compared to the previous year.

This isn’t that surprising; it’s a well-established trend that Americans buy more guns when there’s a threat that gun laws are about to be tightened, and fewer when the threat recedes. The Obama era saw panic buys in the wake of mass shootings, which periodically amped up the fear that the administration would take away people’s guns. With a gun-loving president in charge, there’s no such urgency.

Similarly, US gun stocks took a massive dive right after Trump’s election, though they’ve been trending back up in recent weeks.

Despite that fall, gun stocks are still up around 1,000% since the start of the Obama presidency—a stunning increase. The benchmark S&P index increased only 235% over that period.

As the NRA convention greets a sitting president for the first time in 34 years, they will be basking in each other’s mutual support. But will a Trump presidency be as good to the gun industry as the Obama years were?