Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Gun Stocks Rise Following the Deadliest Mass Shooting in Recent American History, but will Sales?

By Sydney EisenbergPublished October 19, 2017

On October 1st, 2017, Stephen Paddock fired into a crowd at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. As news of the catastrophe spread, gun stock prices started to rise, and bump stock mechanisms quickly ran out of stock at major retailers across the country.

At least 50 were killed and 500 injured in the October 1st mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada when a gunman opened fire on a crowd attending a country music festival. As the United States struggles to grasp the sheer number of casualties and flies into another debate over nationally-regulated gun control, Americans across the country are rushing to buy guns. As a result, over the past two weeks, share prices of gun manufacturers have been on the rise, and so have sales of ammunition bump stocks.

According to the New York Times journalist Tiffany Hsu, investors are "more muted than they had been in recent years" following the shooting. Especially during the Trump administration, investors believe it is be unlikely that legislation will inhibit gun ownership, despite the recent tragedy. In the past three quarters since President Trump's inauguration, gun sales have fallen drastically. According to CNN Money journalist Paul La Monica, even though President Trump was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, several major gun stocks have fallen in price. According to Sturm, Ruger, & Co., part of the reason for the change was increased demand in 2016. The close presidential election had consumers worrying that Hillary Clinton would reduce firearm accessibility, so there was "stronger-than-normal demand" throughout most of 2016. However, contrary to speculation and recent firearms trends, consumers still rushed to purchase guns after the shooting.

Despite the stock growth in immediate response to the shooting, gun sales have not grown quite as much as previous shootings may have predicted.  In the two days immediately following the shooting, Sturm Ruger reported stock price increases of about 5.6% for handguns and rifles. Following the recent trend, the shooting in Las Vegas was followed by an increase in demand for firearms. However, this shooting has actually had the smallest increase in gun sales after an attack of its nature. Another popular gun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, reported increased stock price over the past three shootings. Last year's Orlando nightclub shooting and the 2015 San Bernardino attack saw stock increases of 6.8% and 11.5%, respectively, whereas this shooting only had a stock price increase of about 5.6%, according to the New York Times.

Recent gun sales have seen a massive increase in sales of what are known as bump stocks.  A bump stock is can essentially turn any semi-automatic weapon into a nearly automatic one by dramatically increasing the amount of rounds that can be fired per minute. Bump stock extensions on his guns were part of the reason that gunman Stephen Paddock was able to kill and injure so many people without actually having any automatic rifles. Fearing legislation banning bump stocks, many consumers attempted to buy these accessories to the point where many distributors ran out of stock. According to CNBC, major sellers such as Wal-Mart and Cabela's "pull[ed] bump stocks from their websites" in the days following the shooting. The issue of bump stock legality is so contentious that it may even have bipartisan support in Congress. According to CNBC, "several" Republican senators "who typically oppose gun restrictions" seemed likely to support Dianne Feinstein's new bill banning bump stocks and similar accessories.

Despite bipartisan consensus when considering bump stocks, it is unlikely that much legislation regarding general firearms will successfully become law. For the most part, investors are predicting that there will not be any significant changes affecting gun ownership and prices in the coming years. However, as shooting-based fatalities rise in the United States, guns become more and more ingrained in the notion of self-defense and home security, and one thing is very likely: the more that guns are embedded as a part of American society, the harder it will become to take them (or any accessory for them) away.

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