(Updated 6 a.m. Monday) A few hours ahead of Sunday’s final Democrat debate before the Iowa caucuses, a veteran in the gun industry on his way to check progress on his booth at the 2016 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas had an interesting observation about guns, and how people feel about the Second Amendment.
“People are voting with their wallets,” said Michael Kassnar, one of thousands of industry professionals at this week’s big industry gathering at the Sands Convention Center.
He suggested that terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have changed the debate. Recent experience confirms his observation. Since the two terrorist massacres, firearms sales have spiked across the country and there has been a dramatic increase in applications for concealed carry permits and licenses.
The Sunday night debate was preceded by an attack by Hillary Clinton against Sen. Bernie Sanders for being somewhat soft on gun control, and for alleged flip-flopping. She was quoted by CNN’s Jake Tapper in his “State of the Union” blog explaining that she hopes he flip-flops on the so-called “Charleston loophole” that allows a gun transaction to be completed after 72 hours, even if the FBI has delayed a National Instant Check System report.
Updated: And during the debate, Clinton chastised Sanders for voting “with the NRA” on such issues as taking firearms on Amtrak in checked baggage and for legislation protecting the firearms industry from junk lawsuits. As noted in most Monday reports, including the Washington Post, Sanders now says he supports legislation to reverse the law protecting the industry from such lawsuits.
Clinton reiterated what she has said on several occasions, that she wants to pass “comprehensive common-sense gun measures.” But what does that mean? What are the details? She has talked about Australia several times, and that’s toxic to American gun owners because it involved a mandatory turn in of certain firearms, for which the owners were paid. Such talk only fuels gun sales, and that is what this week in Las Vegas is all about.
The SHOT Show could be a magnet for media coverage this week. Running Tuesday through Friday, this event attracts manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and other industry professionals from around the world. There will be more than 1,600 exhibitors, and possibly more than 60,000 people in attendance, not bad for a show that isn’t open to the general public. Last year, more than 63,000 attended, according to some facts from the SHOT Show website. The show is sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
This is the 38th annual event, and it covers some 630,000 square feet of exhibit hall space. There are literally miles of aisles. There will be a significant presence by Second Amendment groups, too. The National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms all have staff on the ground.
The gun prohibition lobby may not like it, but firearms and the shooting sports are big business. In 2014, it did a reported $6.6 billion in business, and the total economic impact is about $43 billion. The firearms industry supports more than 263,000 jobs.
That’s not likely to change, not only because of the terror attacks, but because of the gun control rhetoric that has become a serious part of the presidential campaign. Clinton is making it an issue, and only time will tell if it’s a smart move, or one that costs Democrats millions of votes in November, from Congress down to local races.
On Monday, the annual writer’s shoot will draw hundreds of firearms media professionals to sample some of the new hardware that will be on the market this year. If Clinton keeps talking, the guns on Monday’s firing line, and on display in the exhibit hall, will just about sell themselves.
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