Culture and the Groundswell of Guns
I just came back from the SHOT show, the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show. About 67 thousand of us were shoulder to shoulder there on the convention floor in Las Vegas. Companies from around the world came to buy and sell, to shop and deal. There is too much for one person to see with the floor being open for only four days. Business is good, but not as crazy-busy as last year. The industry is growing. You are the reason why.
Last year buyers were scrambling to buy up everything. This year was different. Times change and companies adapt. Companies stepped up their capacity to meet the new demand for firearms and ammunition. More ammunition manufacturers are now stamping their own jackets and cases because they couldn’t get enough components from suppliers. New casting houses have entered the ammunition market. I met representatives from auto parts suppliers who are now stamping out ammunition magazines. Domestic and foreign manufacturers expanded their factories and built more. That is what they told me. I learned a lot at the SHOT show but who is ultimately buying all this equipment? We know a lot about gun buyers. We collect sex, age, residence and ethnicity each time we fill out the federal information required to purchase a firearm. We know everything except why they bought a gun.
We’d expect gun sales to fall with an economy like ours. More people than ever are struggling to find work. Gun sales are up despite the poor economy. Shooting today isn’t the hot new recreation hobby that suddenly consumes the extra cash burning a hole in everyone’s pocket during an economic boom. Government budgets are being cut too, so the demand for firearms isn’t being fueled by a new push for law enforcement to practice and become more competent with their carry weapons. So, who is buying?
Look across the country. Our largest cities in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York didn’t suddenly become gun friendly and encourage concealed carry in 2013. That bump won’t hit Illinois until 2014! Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, still hates gun owners. So where are all the guns and ammo going?
Look deeper and the answer is us. Gun owners are diverse and growing more so. We come in every size, age, sex, race and religion. 4 in 10 households report a gun in their home based on a recent Economist/YouGov survey. Women are the fastest growing segment of gun owners, of self-defense students, and the fastest growing segment of concealed carry license holders. Look to your left and right the next time you’re in a checkout line. One of those two people probably has a gun in their home. Those numbers changed by a few percent. What really changed during the last few years is that these gun owners are taking their firearms out and using them. Good for us!
Look at us. Civilians in the United States consume 27 million rounds per day. We increased that by only a few percent and the world is suddenly short three hundred million rounds per year. It isn’t law enforcement who is shooting 22 rimfire ammunition and sucking the supply chain dry. The military isn’t consuming imported eastern European cartridges for antique rifles. Look in the mirror. It is US!
The change extends far beyond training and ammunition. The human rights groups who support self-defense were at SHOT show too. The NRA, SAF and GOA grow each year. So do the state and local groups who advocate for gun rights and gun safety. Their increased membership shows how our culture is changing. But their growth, like the industry growth at SHOT show, is the response rather than the cause. The change in our culture is being propelled from below, not from DC or Wall Street or Hollywood.
There isn’t a revolution in firearms ownership. It is a quiet evolution as our entire culture changes. A few more children are learning to shoot for the first time. A few more young women are taking a firearms safety class. More Americans are dusting off the old firearms in the closet and practicing with them. A few more guys are working second shift and want to get home safely. A few more of our neighbors get their carry licenses and change their wardrobe. Despite the crappy economy, every day a few more ordinary Americans take responsibility for their safety and the safety of those they love. The cultural shift towards self-responsibility is wide, and we watch Duck Dynasty and Top Shots climb in the TV rankings. Firearms ownership is part of that change.
The SHOT Show, with its million dollar deals, is only the tip of the iceberg. The real change is in the homes of America. As usual, our politicians and other “cultural leaders” will be the last to know.
Viva l’ evoluzione!
I gave you 800 words. Please leave me a few.