Gun Demand Stays Strong as African American Gun Association Membership Surges

Demand for guns is rising amid signs a recent wave of hate crimes may have led some minorities to seek additional protection as Donald Trump prepares to assume the presidency.

The National African American Gun Association (NAAG) added a record 1,000 new members over Thanksgiving weekend, bringing the group's total membership to more than 15,000, NAAG president Philip Smith said.

"There's just a lot of tension in the country, and people are reacting to that tension I think," Smith said.

The FBI processed a record 185,713 background checks for gun buyers on Black Friday through the agency's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, up from 185,345 last year, the bureau's Stephen Fischer Jr. said in an email.

Though background checks don't necessarily correspond to sales, they serve as a proxy since they are required whenever someone attempts to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer.

The National Rifle Association doesn't share demographic information such as age, race, gender or political affiliation of its 5 million members, said Jason Brown, a spokesman for the group, in a statement.

Shares of gun makers Smith & Wesson (SWHC) and Sturm Ruger & Company (RGR) have nonetheless fallen about 18% and 20%, respectively, since Hillary Clinton conceded the presidential election to Trump on November 9.

The stocks had run up ahead of the election as polls favoring Clinton stoked fears that the stricter gun-control laws she favors would make ownership more difficult.

"Typically the fear of such legislation prompts a near-term surge in consumer demand for those types of firearms, as consumers flock to stores to stock up on such firearms before the ban is potentially enacted," Wunderlich Securities analyst Rommel Dionisio told TheStreet earlier this month.

Trump has advocated for improving mental-health programs while promising to defend Americans' right to bear arms. He's also promised to be the president for all Americans and in an interview on CBS' 60 Minutes suggested that people engaged in hate crimes should stop it.

Still, demand for guns is strong despite the diminished threat to gun owners under a Trump presidency, partly due to the sharp divisions between Americans that this election has laid bare.

The Southern Poverty Law Center found 867 reports of hate incidents in the 10 days after the election. The organization said it eliminated hoaxes but was unable to verify every report.

As early as the year prior to the election, Trump and his supporters promoted anti-Muslim bigotry by suggesting that Muslims be temporarily banned from entering the U.S. and refusing to rule out a database on all Muslims, Council on American-Islamic Relations Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said. He said many Muslim Americans, especially women, have taken up self-defense classes. 

Hate crimes against Muslim Americans rose 67% in 2015 compared to the year prior, while hate crimes against African Americans rose about 8% and those against Jewish people rose about 9%, according to an FBI database.

"There has been a tremendous spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes and incidents in the past year and even in the previous year, and that spike has accelerated after the election," Hooper said.

The negative rhetoric surrounding the election paired with Black Friday promotions coincided with a surge of interest in gun ownership this past weekend.

Sporting goods retailers such as Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) and Cabela's (CAB) discounted firearms by hundreds of dollars this Black Friday weekend.

Black Friday at a Dick's Sporting Goods in Long Island, NY. Photo credit: Brian Sozzi
Black Friday at a Dick's Sporting Goods in Long Island, NY. Photo credit: Brian Sozzi

Dick's was discounting the Beretta A300 Camo shotgun by $200 to roughly $600, while Cabela's discounted the least expensive model of Smith & Wesson's M&P Pistols by $50 to $480 and of Sturm Ruger's LC9s Pistols by $40 to $380.

Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger are set to benefit most from the healthy demand in the near term, while ammunition manufacturer Vista Outdoor (VSTO) should see additional sales in six to nine months, Forward View Consulting analyst Nathan Yates said in an email.

Smith & Wesson is scheduled to report fiscal 2017 second-quarter results after Thursday's market close.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet are looking for adjusted earnings of 57 cents a share on revenue of $228 million. For the year-ago period, Smith & Wesson reported adjusted earnings of 25 cents a share on $143.2 million in revenue.

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