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Gun Sellers Rebound a Bit Thanks to Black Friday Retailer Blitz

Published on .

A customer speaks with one of the owners at ABQ Guns in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2016.
A customer speaks with one of the owners at ABQ Guns in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2016. Credit: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg

Black Friday was a blockbuster for the gun industry.

While no exact count of firearms sold in America exists, a common barometer is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This year, the FBI said it received just over 203,000 requests on the mega shopping day, up from 185,713 last year and twice as many as in 2008.

This spike comes during a lull for the firearms industry. In past years, sales predictably increased after mass shootings. But the killing of almost 60 concertgoers in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 failed to light the usual fire under gun enthusiasts fearful of new regulations, or of being unarmed in future shootings. The combination of a Republican president and Congress may be helping to dissipate the usual knee-jerk reaction, according to an analysis of background check data by Bloomberg. In fact, after last year's election, stocks of gun companies sank: American Outdoor Brands, formerly Smith & Wesson, has seen a double digit stock decline since the presidential election.

Black Friday background checks in each of the past three years outdid Dec. 21, 2012, once the biggest ever day for guns as shoppers rushed for firearms in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 young children were mowed down by a 20-year-old Adam Lanza.

Those in the gun industry are cognizant of how political climate impacts sales. American Outdoor Brands noted in its annual report that it "can affect the demand for our products." Edward Stack, CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods, acknowledged the nexus of the 2016 election of Donald Trump and poor sales on an earnings call this month: "I think that gets a little bit better because as we've anniversaried the election now," he said. "I don't know if it gets better, but it gets less bad."

Helping to drum up sales in the face of this new reality, retailers this year turned Black Friday into a gun-buying bonanza by offering deep discounts.

Outdoors retailer Cabela's held a doorbuster gun sale this weekend, with deals including $400 off Seekins Precision scoped rifles and $300 off Benelli shotguns. You could buy a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic rifle and get a $50 Cabela's gift card. The chain even gave away Browning pump-action shotguns and Ruger pistols to some shoppers who managed to land a spot at the front of the line Friday morning.

Bass Pro Shops promised "instant savings on guns" for anyone using an outdoor rewards Mastercard to buy a firearm. Its six-hour Black Friday sale highlighted Savage youth single-shot rifles in brown or pink, and offered parents a free wood frame with in-store Santa photos alongside a sale for Remington bolt-action rifles and reflex sights.

Dick's, meanwhile, boasted "all firearms on sale." Spend $1,000 and knock $100 off the price, or pick an item with a mail-in rebate to score a deal on a new shotgun. Ammunition boxes were buy one, get one 50 percent off, though limited to 10 per customer.

-- Bloomberg News

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