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Gun sales plummet under Trump presidency, fear of Obama-era restrictions subsides

Guns sit for sale at a gun show in Fort Worth, Texas. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

With gun-friendly President Donald Trump now occupying the White House, gun sales have continuously fallen, leaving many in the gun industry worried about the future of their once-booming businesses.

From 2006 through 2015, the number of businesses in the United States licensed to produce firearms grew by 362 percent, and from 2004 to 2013, handgun sales more than quadrupled, according to a report by Fox News.

Survey data and market research has shown the growth in the industry was due largely to fears President Barack Obama would restrict owners’ ability to purchase or possess many different kinds of ammunition and guns, especially in the wake of high-profile shootings, such as the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

With Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives, Senate and White House for the first time in nearly a century, it’s clear the fear that once gripped gun owners and prospective gun owners has largely subsided. According to research conducted by the Washington Post, in the first two months of 2017, the number of background checks conducted by the FBI—the metric most often used to estimate industry-wide gun sales—decreased to 4.3 million, a decline of 17 percent compared to same period just one year ago, when background checks totaled 5.2 million.

This has led some in the industry to speculate a sustained contraction of the market is currently underway.

“The trends really almost since Election Day or election night have been that gun sales have slacked off,” Robert Spitzer told the Associated Press. Spitzer is the chairman of the political science department at the State University of New York at Cortland. “When you take away Barack Obama and you give the Republicans control of both houses of Congress, which is extremely friendly to the gun lobby, then the political pressure subsides. And that surely is at least a key part of the explanation for the drop-off in sales.”

Interestingly, some believe Trump could work with Democrats to pass gun-control legislation. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reportedly told a reporter for the New York Times Magazine he believes Trump is open to some forms of gun control.

“Later that month, Manchin went on ‘Morning Joe’ — the one show on MSNBC that Trump has been known to watch — to discuss, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the Newtown school massacre, the need to expand background checks on gun purchases,” reported Robert Draper for the New York Times Magazine. “Within an hour after Manchin was offscreen, his cellphone rang. It was Trump. Manchin was not completely forthcoming about the conversation, but he did tell me that he envisioned ‘a complete opportunity’ for new gun-safety legislation. Unlike with Obama, he said, ‘no one thinks President Trump would do anything that would take away your gun rights.’”

During the 2016 presidential election, Trump spoke out in favor of gun rights, and he received the support of important gun-advocacy organizations, including the National Rifle Association.

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