Behind the Boom

Fears of a second, more flexible Obama administration have gun buyers, owners, and gun-rights advocates worried

• April 20, 2012 12:00 pm


The firearms industry continues to boom, but fears of a second Obama administration have many in the business worried.

At the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) announced that the firearms industry supported more than 209,000 jobs in 2011, an increase of 26 percent over 2008.

The industry generated $2.5 billion in federal business taxes in 2011, according to the NSSF’s annual economic impact report.

March marked the 22nd straight month of increased background checks for gun sales and transfers over the previous year, and gun manufacturer stocks are soaring. Every state in the country except Obama’s home state of Illinois now has concealed-carry laws on the books.

But long-term concerns loom as uncertainty over a second Obama term remains.

Steve Hornady is the president of Hornady Manufacturing, an American ammunition company. His father founded the company after World War II.

The Obama administration in some ways is easier and more efficient to deal with than previous White Houses, and with a solid pro-gun bloc in Congress, Hornady is not worried about legislative efforts to curtail guns, he said at the NSSF event.

"Where there are concerns is with regulatory agencies," Hornady said. "The administration can send inspectors from every three-letter agency they have to inspect your building."

Larry Keane, the NSSF’s senior vice president, said relations between the gun industry and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have deteriorated since Obama took office.

The industry has also been experiencing problems with the Internal Revenue Service, he said.

Beretta General Counsel Jeff Reh said Obama "could do more damage in a week than our industry could repair in four years" using agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Justice Department.

President Obama’s statements and actions make these more than idle worries.

The president’s "hot mic" gaffe with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev—in which he said he would have more "flexibility" in a second term—suggests that Obama is purposefully holding back on implementing certain unpopular policy initiatives until after the 2012 presidential election.

His backroom dealings with the gun control lobby suggest more anti-gun policies may be on the horizon.

On March 30, 2011, Jim Brady of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence met with White House officials to push for a ban on large magazines.

President Obama dropped by to chat with Brady and his wife, Sarah, according to the Washington Post.

"I just want you to know that we are working on it," Obama assured them, according to Sarah Brady. "We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar."

It is exactly those "under the radar" processes that worry firearms industry executives and Second Amendment groups.

While the administration has little hope of moving anti-gun legislation through a gridlocked Congress, it can use executive orders, judicial appointments, and other measures to pursue its agenda, said Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.

The last two major Supreme Court cases on the Second Amendment, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, were both decided by narrow 5-4 decisions.

A single Supreme Court appointment could undo the narrow majority of Justices who view the Second Amendment as an individual right.

"That could unravel the victories we've had in the last decade," Gottlieb said. "Obama could pretty much slam the courthouse door on gun owners."

The executive branch can also use its powers to block imports and exports of weapons. In 2010, the Obama administration blocked the sale of hundreds of thousands of antique M1 rifles and carbines from South Korea to the U.S.

"The transfer of such a large number of weapons—87,310 M1 Garands and 770,160 M1 Carbines—could potentially be exploited by individuals seeking firearms for illicit purposes," a State Department spokesman told Fox News.

The Reagan administration allowed 200,000 M1 rifles from South Korea to be sold in the U.S. in 1987.

The administration is using the Fast and Furious scandal—in which federal agents allowed thousands of guns to be smuggled to Mexican drug cartels, one of which was used to murder a border patrol agent—to push its gun-control agenda, said Katie Pavlich, author of the recently released Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up.

"The State Department's own WikiLeaks cable disproves their numbers," Pavlich said about statistics being pushed to promote an anti-gun agenda. "The majority of guns were traced back to the State Department because it sells guns to the Mexican army, which is massively corrupt. But the administration wasn't willing to distinguish between the two."

Some members of the administration have used drug-cartel violence in Mexico to call for reinstating the assault weapons ban, a position long-favored by Obama.

Attorney General Eric Holder argued in favor of that position earlier this year, but Obama has yet to push for the ban.

Despite the administration’s refusal to take on gun control as a major issue, the most vocal gun-control groups and members of Congress have not given up hope.

There is precedent for optimism. The original passage of the assault weapons ban in 1994 cost President Bill Clinton and the Democrats in that year’s mid-term elections. But, after Clinton’s reelection, he issued many executive orders banning the importation of certain types of "assault" rifles and pistols.

"Those in the industry that were around in the second term of the Clinton administration know how quickly things can change," Keane said.

The Brady Campaign has not given up, either. They marked the fifth anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech on Monday with a renewed call for increased gun control.

At a news conference outside of the Capitol Building, Brady Campaign President Dan Gross, flanked by 32 victims of gun violence—a reference to the 32 deaths at Virginia Tech—blamed U.S. gun violence, especially the Trayvon Martin shooting, on the NRA.

Gross accused Wayne LaPierre and the NRA of "putting the gun in George Zimmerman’s hands" and announced a two-point program for the near future.

The organization recently released a report with a picture of Zimmerman on the front entitled "I am the NRA." Gross called the laws part of the NRA’s "dark vision for America."