Looking for a hot investment? How about the Second Amendment? Thanks to Barack Obama, gun sales have gone through the roof, and so have shares in firearms manufacturers. Institutional investors have noticed, and stocks in firms like Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson have become part of widely held investment funds and retirement portfolios. Reuters reports that many people may be “unwitting” beneficiaries of this boom, including the man many credit for it:
Barack Obama might seem an unlikely investor in the firearms industry. But the U.S. president, a fierce advocate for gun regulation, has money in a pension fund that holds stock in gun and ammunition companies.
Although Obama’s stake is minuscule, worth no more than $30, it reflects a much larger surge of investment.
The president is among millions of Americans buying into gun companies – often unwittingly – as mutual funds have increased such holdings to record levels, according to a Reuters analysis of institutional investment in firearms companies.
Since Obama was elected in 2009, mutual funds have raised their stakes to about $510 million from $30 million in the nation’s two largest gun manufacturers with publicly traded shares, Smith & Wesson Corp and Sturm, Ruger & Co. That means such stocks are now common in retirement and college savings plans.
The influx has helped to boost both companies’ shares by more than 750 percent during the Obama presidency; each now has a market value of about $1 billion.
The way Reuters frames this is rather tiresome and paternalistic. Retirees may be “unwitting” investors in the firearms industry in exactly the same manner they might be “unwitting” investors in Reuters, TimeWarner, or Disney. They could also be “unwitting” investors in cattle ranching, pesticide manufacturers, automakers, the airlines, or Chuck E. Cheese. Firearms manufacturing is perfectly legal, not some kind of criminal enterprise. Investors — including retirees — get into funds to grow their wealth, not as a social statement. Those who get very particular about their investments and financial affiliations can manage their own money and pick their own stocks rather than buy into the larger investment funds.
Institutional investors buy into firearms manufacturers because it’s a solid investment. How do we know this? More than 60 million American households have invested in firearms market directly — by purchasing the products. They invest themselves in other ways as well, with training, practice, and increasingly, carry permits. In fact, Minnesota just had its second-largest monthly increase in permits in the past three years:
Permits to carry a gun in Minnesota soared in the month of January, the state’s second largest surge since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.
Since the beginning of the new year, there have been at least 221,712 active permit holders — a 6,189 increase from December 2015, according to a monthly data report from the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The largest spike was in March 2013 with 7,213 active permit holders, a few months after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and subsequent calls for national gun control measures. …
Almost in reflex, there’s a run on ammunition, gun sale background checks increase, interest in and enrollment in permit classes go up, and more people get their permits, said Andrew Rothman, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance (GOCRA), which released the report Thursday.
“It’s not always a reaction to mass shootings, although there is some of that,” Rothman said. “But probably the bigger part is the reaction when people hear about the political rhetoric following a horrible murder … that’s what gets people very interested in exercising their rights.”
“Reflex” implies a lack of purpose. That hasn’t been the case with gun owners in my acquaintance. The rhetoric following rare but tragic mass shootings is the reflex, demanding new laws when there is a lack of will to enforce existing laws, old hobby-horse agenda items that wouldn’t have prevented the crimes being exploited for political gain. The increase in firearms and ammunition purchases and in permit applications is the measured response — a free-market protest to remind politicians that law-abiding Americans aren’t the problem, and won’t be scapegoated as the villains. It is a purposeful and deliberate act of legal defiance, a statement that speaks louder than the knee-jerk, reflex position of politicians whose first option is to punish the law-abiding because they think it’s easier than dealing with the real problem.
Well, tens of millions of Americans who handle their firearms responsibly aren’t going to allow that. They will make statements with their mouths, their pens and keyboards, their wallets, and most importantly their ballots — a lesson Democrats had learned the hard way once, and seem to be on their way to learning the hard way again.