The gun industry surged to new heights in 2020. Millions of Americans bought a gun for the first time. Sales set records.
But it’s been downhill ever since. Ruger, one of the nation’s largest gun makers, is still feeling that fall. Its sales declined year-over-year once again in its latest earnings report.
However, there’s reason to think the industry is approaching a new sales floor. The other publicly traded American gun company posted a sales increase two months ago. Now, an industry analysis shows last month was the third-best October on record for gun sales. And sales actually grew over the previous October.
This week also brought us new developments regarding the background of the man who murdered 18 people and wounded 13 more last week in Maine. A new report said he was involuntarily committed. Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman takes a close look at the latest details, whether they should have made it illegal for the attacker to possess guns, and why he was able to carry out the attack anyway.
And I do my best to convey to Reload Members just what it’s like to live through that kind of manhunt.
We also saw a new federal court ruling against a California gun restriction. This time, it’s related to the state’s attempt to kick gun shows off public lands. And Gallup released a new poll that found Democrats warming to the idea of a handgun ban but also found most Americans believe guns make them safer than the other way around.
Plus, VCDL president Philip Van Cleave joins the podcast to give his outlook on guns and the 2023 Virginia elections.
Ruger Sales Fall Further
By Stephen Gutowski
One of the nation’s largest gun makers continued to see weak sales over the past quarter.
Sturm, Ruger & Co. posted net sales of $120.9 million in its 2023 third quarter, according to an earnings statement released on Thursday. That’s down $18.5 million, or 13 percent, from the same quarter in 2022. Diluted earnings per share fell by over half, from $1.03 to 42¢, as well. The company said the sluggish sales were the result of the entire industry seeing reduced demand.
“Our third quarter sales and profitability decreased from last year, as overall firearms demand declined, creating a challenging, promotion-rich marketplace,” Ruger CEO Christopher J. Killoy said in a statement. “We remained focused on the long-term, offering only modest promotions and adjusting the production rates on various product lines to better match demand, which reduced our overall production.”
Ruger’s continued slide comes as the entire gun industry is searching for a new sales floor after it reached record heights in the immediate aftermath of the Covid pandemic and 2020 riots. Gun sales have declined precipitously since then and have begun to approach pre-pandemic levels despite millions of Americans coming into the gun market for the first time in 2020. If Ruger and other companies can’t find a way to boost sales, they may waste the opportunity to grow the industry in the wake of an unprecedented surge in customer interest.
Gun Sales Jumped in October
By Stephen Gutowski
The FBI ran more background checks on gun sales last month than it had during the same period in 2022, according to an industry analysis.
That indicates Americans bought more firearms this October than the previous one. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade group for the gun industry, reported on Thursday that more than 1.3 million gun checks were completed last month–representing an 8.3% increase over 2022. That makes October 2023 one of the few months to see more checks than the same period a year before and also the largest.
It also means that last month saw the third-most gun checks of any October on record, behind 2020 and 2021.
New updates in the aftermath of last week’s Lewiston mass shooting continue to suggest that law enforcement officials failed to disarm the gunman despite having ample opportunity and legal justification to do so.
In the days following the attack, which left 18 people dead and 13 others wounded, details surrounding the perpetrator’s mental health history remained hazy. An official law enforcement bulletin published during the manhunt for the shooter, and later reporting by the Associated Press, indicated that his time spent in a mental hospital was the result of an involuntary commitment. That would make it a federal crime for him to possess firearms. However, information shared by Maine officials just days later seemed to dispute that point.
“I have not seen to this point that [the shooter] was forcibly committed for treatment,” Mike Sauschuck, Maine Public Safety Commissioner, said in a press conference last weekend. “And if that didn’t happen, then the NICS check, you could go into a firearms dealer who does all of their work, and the background check is not going to ping that this person was prohibited.”
But on Wednesday, The Boston Globe reported that an official with the hospital where the shooter underwent mental health treatment confirmed that his stay was indeed the result of involuntary commitment.
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Gun Group Says Ruling Against California Gun Show Ban Prevents ‘Culturecide’
By Stephen Gutowski
The Golden State’s attempt to kick gun shows off public grounds has been blocked.
On Monday, US District Judge John W. Holcomb issued a preliminary injunction stopping California from enforcing its ban. He found a pair of laws the state passed likely infringed on the First and Second Amendment rights of Californians.
“Plaintiffs argue that the statutes at issue infringe both their First Amendment freedom-of-speech rights in a public forum and their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms,” Judge Holcomb wrote in B&L Productions v. Newsom. “After reviewing the parties’ extensive briefing and conducting a hearing on the motion, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have established that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their constitutional claims and that they have satisfied the other requirements for injunctive relief.”
Gallup: Nearly Half of Democrats Support a Handgun Ban
By Jake Fogleman
Almost half of Democrats would support a categorical ban on the most popular type of firearm in the country.
That’s what Gallup pollsters found in the firm’s latest survey on Americans’ attitudes toward guns released Tuesday. 49 percent of self-identified Democrats supported “a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police,” while 51 percent were opposed. Democratic support for a ban was up nine points since Gallup asked the same question in 2021. Republicans and independents, meanwhile, overwhelmingly opposed a handgun ban, at 93 percent and 73 percent, respectively.
Overall, support among the broader public continues to sit at near multi-decade lows.
This week, we’re looking ahead at Virginia’s off-year elections. Governor Glenn Youngkin (R.) is halfway through his first term, and now the entire state legislature is up for election.
Republicans currently have a four-vote majority in the House of Delegates, while Democrats have a two-vote majority in the Senate. That’s led to very little movement on gun policy since the Democrats lost their trifecta after passing universal background checks, a one-gun-a-month limit, a “red flag” law, local gun-free zones, and other restrictions in 2020.
The outcome of the election will either preserve the status quo or potentially lead to the repeal of at least some restrictions. That’s why we have Virginia Citizen Defense League (VCDL) president Philip Van Cleave on the show to tell us how his group sees things unfolding.
Plus, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman and I discuss the latest updates on the mentally ill mass shooter in Maine.
Analysis: The Anxiety of Waiting Out a Manhunt [Member Exclusive]
By Stephen Gutowski
On Wednesday, a man murdered 18 people and wounded 13 more in Lewistown, Maine. Then he disappeared.
Entire towns and communities were soon put on lockdown as law enforcement from every level of government descended on the area. As time moved on, we learned more about the suspect’s background. He had been hearing voices, according to family members. He threatened to shoot up the base he was stationed at as part of his non-combat service in the army reserve and was subsequently taken to a mental health facility by police. He was then committed for two weeks before being released.
He was armed with an AR variant that he bought a short time before that commitment, which he reportedly wasn’t legally allowed to keep possession of but did anyway. Those details raise far more questions about how this could have been allowed to happen that still need to be answered in the days and weeks ahead.
But, in the hours that followed the horrendous attack, the most crucial question for people in Maine was: Where did he go?
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Outside The Reload
That’s it for this week in guns.
I’ll see you all next week.