Turning Interest Into Votes


The Final Sprint

With Election Day less than 50 days away, you don’t need me to tell you there’s a lot at stake Nov. 3 — every media outlet, political pundit and your neighbor down the road have been saying so for months. In the backdrop of a global pandemic and widespread social unrest, it’s certainly a watershed moment in our nation’s history.

This “moment” has resulted in unprecedented times for the firearms industry, dwarfing previous record runs on firearms in 2012/2013 and 2016. Each of the past six months on record (March–August) have resulted in top marks in the NICS system’s 21-year history. Through Aug. 31, the 13,825,115 NSSF-adjusted background checks in 2020 have already eclipsed the entirety of 2019 (!) and would also be the fifth-highest total on record — and there are still four months yet to be added.

Changing Perceptions

As you well know, the primary source of this explosive surge is first-time gun owners. (NSSF estimates nearly 5 million have joined our ranks this year.) Their motivations to buy were first fueled by the pandemic and subsequent panic buying, which was later magnified by social unrest and widespread calls for defunding the police.

Ace Shooting Sports’ Ben Romanoff summed it up succinctly in evaluating insatiable demand for handguns at his store: “It’s opened a lot of people’s eyes to the idea owning a gun isn’t such a bad thing. If you were on the fence, you jumped onto our side.”

In previous election years, Shooting Industry has called on dealers and the industry to reach out to those voters “in the middle,” who may not have strong opinions on gun ownership and the Second Amendment. While this is still a necessary endeavor, we’re actually in a unique position to take it a step further — because a number of these first-time gun owners, ironically, very likely supported gun control measures in the past.

“Interestingly, these are people who had zero interest in owning a firearm. They’re more left-leaning, with liberal views on firearms ownership and they’ve been surprised they can’t just walk out with a gun,” said John Phillips, founder and president of Poway Weapons & Gear Range in Poway, Calif., at the onset of the pandemic. (California has some of the most stringent gun control laws in the country, and its 10-day “cooling-off period” for firearm sales has been around for nearly 25 years.)

In the six months since make his initial observation, Phillips has continued to see similar trends — while noting opportunities to engage with these new buyers have been productive.

“I would stick to my original quote and say over the past six months 80% of our first-time gun buyers had no intention of ever owning a gun and certainly had not supported gun rights,” he noted. “With that said, if new buyers take the second step and take a class or get private lessons, they’re totally open to hearing more. We find they’re ‘shocked and awed’ at California gun laws once they hear them and digest their true meanings.”

Another dealer, in Texas, shared his recent astonishment during a class, “I even have a woman who bought a gun and is taking classes with a Beto sticker on her car!”

You’ve probably encountered the same customer(s) in your store. Have you broached the topic of how their voting preference next month will impact the future of firearm sales (and more) if “things get ugly”?

“Over the past six months, 80% of our first-time gun buyers had no intention of ever owning a gun and certainly had not supported gun rights.”

John Phillips, Poway Weapons & Gear Range

“We the People” In Action

Ultimately, each political race at the national, state and local levels will be determined by the power of the vote. The ballot box (or mail-in ballot) is one of the few places where we as American citizens are equal, no matter our age, sex, financial wealth, gender preference, religion, skin color or political leanings. Make sure yours counts by actually voting and encouraging others to do the same.

Depending on your state, it’s not too late to register to vote. NSSF’s #GUNVOTE campaign has resources available to ensure you, employees, customers and business partners are registered.

“We the People” will determine not just who will be in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day in January, but also who will be serving in “down ballot” seats — all of which will impact the trajectory of where our country, and industry, is headed.
On Nov. 3, whether it’s in person or by mail, vote.