Trump’s dystopia gives gun sellers bright outlook

By Rob Cox
September 2, 2016

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Donald Trump’s dystopia is giving one industry a brighter outlook. The Republican presidential candidate’s vision of a crumbling America overrun with criminals and illegal immigrants challenging weakened law enforcement has not won him a strong following from his fellow business leaders. It is, however, cementing support from gun sellers.

In many ways, Trump’s characterization is hard to distinguish from the one the arms trade has been spinning throughout Barack Obama’s eight years in the White House. Despite, or perhaps because of, a series of deadly mass shootings and intermittent calls for regulation, the business of guns has never been better.

Smith & Wesson on Thursday reported that sales surged by 40 percent in the three months ended July 31, to $207 million. Profit margins also expanded and earnings more than doubled from a year ago to $32.6 million. The company raised expectations for full-year revenue. The new figure “does not take into account … any potential spike in consumer demand as a result of any event,” Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Buchanan told investors.

Multiple “events” – gun murders – haven’t hurt business. During Smith & Wesson’s latest quarter, a gunman killed 49 people in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. The massacre sparked calls for stronger gun-safety legislation. That typically helps weapon sales, as consumers fear the window will close on their chance to stock up.

After the tragedy, National Rifle Association boss Wayne LaPierre warned that terrorists are coming “and they’re going to try to kill us, and we need to be prepared.” That followed his group’s endorsement of Trump, a move it has since bolstered with paid advertising.

Smith & Wesson rival Sturm Ruger, meanwhile, has pledged to donate $2 to the NRA for every gun it sells. It also used its latest conference call with Wall Street to endorse “freedom-loving Americans” who support the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which grants a right to bear arms.

Trump warned voters last month that his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton would appoint more liberal justices to the Supreme Court if president, but that “Second Amendment people” might find a way to prevent that outcome. The message stirred some controversy. For some companies, though, it might go straight to the bottom line.

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