A record number of firearms enthusiasts made their way to the Florida State Fairgrounds this weekend to attend the Florida Gun Show, amid a fierce national debate over gun rights following the Valentine's Day massacre at Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida.
Organizers say almost 7,000 people attended on Saturday, with Sunday's tally expected to be higher. Organizer Steve Fernandez said they've never seen such a large crowd - however it's possible that the cancellation of next month's show in Fort Lauderdale may have attracted concerned citizens.
Just 3 days after Florida's worst ever school shooting....Floridians flood to a gun show to further arm themselves with high powered assault weapons. pic.twitter.com/igy2mUu8mo— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 18, 2018
Somewhat ironically, this was to be expected considering the massive effort by gun control advocates to erode as much of the Second Amendment as they can in the wake of the Parkland shooting - never letting a crisis go to waste and all that. President Trump's recent advocacy for more stringent background checks, a 10-day waiting period and raising the age limit on the purchase of guns following the Parkland shooting likely fueled concerns over a "slippery slope" of firearms legislation.
Florida lawmakers such as Senator Bill Nelson (D) have called for stricter laws to fix the so-called "gun show loophole" which allows people to purchase firearms without a background check. While federally licensed vendors at a gun show are still required to run background checks (FFL), private sellers without a federal license do not have the same requirement in 40 states. (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington D.C., New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington all require private sellers to conduct background checks).
“Some of the people attending are afraid that future legislation will impact their gun ownership rights,” said Fernandez. That said, 95% of the vendors at this weekend's Florida Gun Show are required to run background checks since they are licensed dealers.
Also of note, suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz passed a background check before legally purchasing a semiautomatic AR-15 style rifle.
“This was a mental health issue. This is someone who should have been identified from the beginning by law enforcement,” says Fernandez.
In any event, google searches for both "buy a gun", "buy AR15", as well as "second amendment" just hit all time highs.
Interest in firearms ownership also spiked following President Obama's 2008 election - as a flurry of "gun control" headlines resulted in a flood of purchases - as evidenced by number of FBI background checks conducted following the 2008 election - a phenomenon which spiked after every mass shooting or act of domestic terrorism:
Indeed, Obama was jokingly referred to as the "best gun salesman in America," with 52,600 weapons sold daily under his administration as of June 2016.
Wall St. pushes back
Following the Parkland massacre, over a dozen major companies cut ties with the NRA, including Delta, Hertz and MetLife. Wall St. is no exception. In addition to Bank of America "reexamining relationships with clients who make AR-15s," Blackrock - the world's largest money manager - and the largest shareholder in gunmakers in Sturm Ruger & Company and American Outdoor Brands (Smith & Wesson) said it will speak with both manufacturers about their response to the Florida shooting.
Gunmakers may also come under pressure from pensions - such as Florida's state pension, which holds shares of American Outdoor Brands. As Bloomberg put it, "as Florida teachers grieve over the mass shooting that left 17 students and colleagues dead last week, some of them may be surprised to learn they’ve been helping fund the firearms industry—including the company that made the gun used that bloody Wednesday."
Investment giant Blackstone Group, LP asked outside fund managers at a dozen hedge funds to detail their ownership in companies that make or sell guns, requesting answers by Sunday night - a one day turnaround.
Perhaps this explains why both shares in Ruger (RGR) and American Outdoor Brands (ABOC) have remained depressed in light of the predictable bump in sales which correspond with the renewed debate over gun control.
For reference, American Outdoor Brands and Ruger are down roughly -7% and -5% YTD respectively, while the S&P 500 is up 5.64%.
Meanwhile, guns are flying off the shelves...
FLORIDA GUN SHOW I Organizers say they saw record numbers yesterday with close to 7k people showing up and they expect more today! They also tell me they do not support a ban on assault rifles but more laws for mental health. @10NewsWTSP pic.twitter.com/95YGMKGl3E— Shannon Valladolid (@ShannonMarieTV) February 25, 2018