These are testing times for the American gun industry. Sales of Remington Outdoor Co.’s products, which include the Bushmaster XM-15 “modern sporting rifle” Adam Lanza used to massacre 20 kindergartners and 6 teachers at Sandy Hook in 2014, were down 27 per cent in the first quarter year on year.
Smith and Wesson, which trades as American Outdoor Brands, has seen its share price sink by a third since hitting an all-time peak last July. AOB stock took a particularly heavy beating in the three days following Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday, November 8, falling from $28.45 at the end of election day trading, before the votes were tallied and while Hillary Clinton still looked inevitable, to $21.24 at the close that Friday.
Trump has not been a boon for CEO’s whose stock options rely on fundamentalist readings of Second Amendment.
Wall Street assumes that since neither he nor the Republican majority in Congress will molest the sacred right of Americans to own military-grade firepower, demand in an already glutted market will be flat. Atrocities like Sandy Hook will not send punters running to Walmart to pick up a last assault rifle or three in case politicians are finally shamed into enacting controls. For the time being Washington is entirely unencumbered by shame.
To scare up business, the industry therefore needs a different strategy. As usual, it can rely on its friends at the National Rifle Association, the lobby that seeks to hound from office any public servant foolhardy enough to want to keep Glocks from the hands of mental patients.
The pitch now coming from the NRA, both directly and out of the foaming mouths of surrogates for whom it provides a platform with industry sponsorship, is genuinely alarming, whichever side you’re on.
It’s a call to arms, broadcast over NRATV, the lobby’s streaming media channel, to fight the “organised anarchy” and the “radical leftist agenda” that are being masterminded by “them” and “their ex-president”, Barack Obama, against Trump and true Americans. A figurative call, technically speaking, but literal to those with ears tuned to the Trumpian dog whistle. Time to lay in another Armalite!
“They,” says NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, incandescent with resentment and menace in a recruitment ad flighted in June, “use their media to assassinate real news, they use their schools to teach their children that their president is another Hitler, they use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.”
Voicing over black and white footage that evokes the chaos of antiwar protest and inner city meltdown that helped elect Richard Nixon in 1968, Loesch tosses red meat to Trump’s “silent majority”.
“And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance, all to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia, to smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorise the law-abiding until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness. And when that happens they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth. I’m the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place.”
Or consider this exchange between ranting NRATV commentator Grant Stinchfied and Chuck Holton, introduced as “veteran Army Ranger and frontline correspondent”, first aired last week. The “them” in this case is Black Lives Matter, the movement that sprang up in reaction to the endless shooting with impunity of unarmed African-American suspects by mostly white policemen.
Stinchfield: “Our race relations are strained here in America after 8 years of Barack Obama, but nowhere as near as bad as it is in South Africa where white families are being tortured and killed almost every day in racist violence. It is a warning for the United States that you will never hear from the mainstream media in this country….
Holton: “Right…the violence against farmers is being called for by government officials, it’s being celebrated by politicians and the scary thing is, it’s kind of a warning for what could happen in the US if we continue to let this get out of control…”
When the Washington Post suggested the NRA might want to stick to defending the Second Amendment rather than whipping up hate, Stinchfield shot back: “You have done more damage to our country with a keyboard than every member of the NRA combined has ever done with a firearm.”
Will the gunmakers do anything to restrain their lobby from these raw, deeply illiberal appeals to the basest of Trump’s base? Not, I imagine, if the appeals move product. And given the target market, it’s hard to see them damaging sales. Another civil war would be good for business, wouldn’t it?