The political impact on gun sales

Local store owners say business is steady — though many are also buying guns for sport, hobby reasons

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JAKE PARRISH/Press

David Cliff of Coeur d'Alene checks out a rifle on Friday at Black Sheep Sporting Goods in Coeur d'Alene. Although gun sales are down nationwide following the election of president-elect Donald Trump, Black Sheep's sales are remaining strong.

COEUR d'ALENE — Fear of stringent gun restrictions under a Hillary Clinton regime stoked gun permit background checks nationwide to an all-time high for the month of October.

Background check data collected by the FBI is considered the best available measure of gun sales in the U.S.

The pre-election worries of Second Amendment advocates softened, however, when NRA-endorsed Donald Trump defeated Clinton in the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8.

Since the Republican's triumph, two major gun stocks — Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger — saw a near 20 percent decline, according to Wall Street. The stocks have begun to rebound, though with slower sales moving forward.

There hasn't been a significant sales shift with a pair of local gun shops, though.

Not yet, anyway.

Nearly four weeks after the election, Black Sheep Sporting Goods manager Brian Knoll and Northwest Pony Express owner Joe Ellithorpe said business has been steady.

"To be honest, I would have anticipated a small dip in sales, but so far that hasn't been the case," said Knoll, whose store has one of the more robust gun selections in the region. "Sales have maintained, at least so far. It's probably too early to determine long-term how sales will do over the next year, but our sales in firearms have always been strong and we're optimistic that they're going to remain strong."

Ellithorpe, owner and manager of his gun store in North Idaho for the last 10 years, said he won't be able to get a true grasp on the market until Trump gets settled into office.

"There hasn't been any easy-breezy buying going on. I think people are waiting to see how the cards fall," Ellithorpe said. "At first blush, I think we are all pretty happy with what we're seeing. (Trump) is saving some jobs already and obviously the Second Amendment is a big part of his program. I would expect that to be a good thing in the long run."

But since Northwest Pony Express also buys, sells and trades antique and vintage firearms, some business has been affected as consumers wait out the changing of the guard in Washington, Ellithorpe said.

"So that slowed down the availability of (second-market) merchandise for us,” Ellithorpe said. “So in reality that hasn't been a good thing yet. But when the marketplace eases up, it will be. I can't imagine it wouldn't get better, but at this stage of the game it hasn't.”

According to the FBI, background checks for new guns rose 14 percent nationally in November, an increase from November of 2015. Background checks grew 10 percent a year throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, according to reports.

"Everyone knows there was a bump in firearm sales after the first election of Barack Obama and after his re-election, but it's been a good solid business before eight years ago," Knoll said.

Ellithorpe noticed the similar spike this past October when doing his research.

"If you were to listen to the media at large, it was already a foregone conclusion that Hillary was going to be president, so people were literally trying to buy what they could," Ellithorpe said.

FBI data shows national gun sales jumped 17 percent from September to October. Over 2.3 million gun-related checks went through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in October alone.

But while people point to politics-fueled gun sales, Knoll believes the sport and hobby of gun-shooting is growing as a whole.

"When we sit back and think about why there is an increase in sales, we know that over the last eight to 10 years the industry has gained a lot of new shooters. So regardless of the reason that people came here to buy guns in the first place, a lot of them have found a new hobby they can do with their spouse or with family members and friends," Knoll said. “And they found that they enjoy the shooting sports, and as a result, we look at the number of new shooters that we have acquired as a community of outdoor enthusiasts ... that all those new folks have given us, regardless of demographic."

JAKE PARRISH/Press

A variety of rifles and shotguns are on display Friday at Black Sheep Sporting Goods in Coeur d'Alene.

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