Will America's Love of Guns Kill Control and Save Manufacturers?

146821322One would think that Newtown and a slew of other gun-related killings recently would turn the public sharply against gun ownership and toward gun control. Apparently, that is not the case, at least at a level that would seem reasonable in light of the tragedies. Gun companies, which faced revenue trouble, may find that, long term, they have few problems at all.

Gun firms already have benefited from the odd surge in purchases after the Newtown massacre. Some of this may be due to concerns that certain weapons will be banned. Additionally, some people may want to arm themselves against a rise in gun violence. At some point, these trends ought to peter out, as gun penetration moves to a natural saturation point - a place where it may already be.

Two new polls - one from Reuters/Ipsos and another from USA Today/Gallup - give a strong indication that gun sales, and gun use, face only the most modest restrictions, if the general public has its say.

The Reuters poll, based on data collected from 1,477 Americans between December 23 and 27, registered that:

48 percent of respondents agreed that "gun ownership should have strong regulations or restrictions."

Extraordinarily, Reuters found:

Meanwhile, 69 percent and 68 percent either strongly supported or somewhat supported laws allowing law-abiding citizens to get a concealed-weapon permit and "laws allowing citizens to use deadly force to protect themselves from danger in public places," respectively.

And:

[N]early four in 10 Americans said they supported allowing law-abiding citizens to bring a firearm into a "church, workplace, or retail establishment," according to the poll. Several states currently ban guns in such places.

Given that there have been several shootings in and around places of worship in the past several years, "bring a gun to church" is a particularly nice touch.

Gallup's findings, although taken from a different point of view, where not terribly different:

Fifty-four percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the National Rifle Association; 38% view it unfavorably. Views of the NRA have fluctuated over time - from a low of 42% favorable in 1995 to a high of 60% in 2005.

The Gallup poll was taken between December 19 and the 22. The NRA press conference at which the organization suggested armed policemen patrol schools came at the mid-point of the survey period. However, the killings in Newtown had occurred already when the polling began.

Even more in favor of gun ownership, and therefore probably gun purchases:

A separate question included in the Dec. 19-22 survey asked Americans how often the NRA reflects their views about guns. Thirty-five percent say the NRA reflects their views always or most of the time - more than said so the two previous times Gallup asked the question, in 1996 and 1999.

Two surveys do not definitively represent a trend, nor necessarily reflect public opinion entirely, no matter how expert the pollsters are. But the trend taken from the research is fairly clear. Gun control laws may not be as easy to pass as they might have seemed two weeks ago.

The wisdom of a rush to get out of the gun business, and investor worries that the revenue of gun companies long term is threatened, is not so clear any more. Shares of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: SWHC) and Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. (NYSE: RGR) could well be higher in a year than they are today.

Douglas A. McIntyre


Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Research Tagged: featured, RGR, SWHC

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