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Gun Sales Drop in the US, But Why?

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2016 file photo, handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2016 file photo, handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
Gun Sales Drop in the US, but Why?
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Almost 60,000 members of the gun industry are meeting this week in the U.S. city of Las Vegas, Nevada. They are gathering for the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show – or, as it is commonly called, the SHOT show.

The yearly event brings together gun manufactures, dealers, law enforcement and military professionals. They share information on the latest products, technology and tools in the gun industry. Products from more than 1,700 companies are displayed over 20 kilometers.

The show is huge. Yet, the gun industry has recently seen a fall in gun sales and a decrease in the possibility that gun rights will be expanded.

The changes come even after U.S. President Donald Trump took office in 2017. In his first weeks as president, Trump reversed a rule by the former president that had made it difficult for some people with disabilities to buy a gun.

But some of the other policies the gun industry seeks have not advanced under Trump. These policies include easing people’s ability to carry some guns secretly and making the sound of gun fire quieter.

The Trump government also recently banned bump stocks -- devices that permit weapons to fire ammunition quickly. Bump stocks were used in the mass shooting of 58 people at an outdoor music festival in 2017 in Las Vegas, near where the SHOT show is held.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Changing politics

Gun industry watchers say the Las Vegas shooting is one reason that gun rights are not expanding. It was soon followed by a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed. These events brought the issue of guns to the nation’s attention again.

Robert J. Spitzer is chairman of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland. He says that after the Parkland shooting, efforts to expand gun rights were frozen.

In addition, voters recently elected a number of lawmakers to the House of Representatives who want to increase restrictions on guns. House Democrats recently introduced legislation to sharply expand background checks. In other words, officials would examine the criminal and financial records of almost anyone who wants to buy a gun.

Why are gun sales down?

These political changes come as gun sales are dropping, too. But those declines are more expected. Gun sales often drop when the president is believed to be gun-friendly. The Associated Press called it a “Trump slump.”

Gary Ramsey is attending this year’s SHOT show. He is the owner of Honor Defense, a gun manufacturing business. He told the Associated Press the show has become quieter than it was when Barack Obama was president. In Obama’s last year in office, background checks reached an all-time high.

“There was no one to beat up. You didn't have President Obama to put up in PowerPoint (presentations) and say …‘look what he's doing to our country,’” he said.

“Numbers are down,” Ramsey added. “You can't deny it.”

John Feinblatt is president of Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that supports limits on the gun industry. He agrees that the decline in gun sales is because Obama is no longer president, and he is not a threat to those who want more freedom around guns.

But Joe Bartozzi, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, says no single reason explains the changes in gun sales. He told the Associated Press that, during his 30 years in the industry, he has seen sales rise and fall.

He also notes that while many lawmakers in the House of Representatives are seeking more gun restrictions, many lawmakers in the Senate are not. The House and Senate must work together to pass any legislation.

Bartozzi says his group is seeking gun measures that already have some policy support. He would like to increase gun safety programs and places to practice shooting on public lands. The hope is that increasing the number of shooting ranges will make more people want to become hunters.

I’m Dorothy Gundy.

Lisa Marie Pane reported on this story for the Associated Press. Dorothy Gundy adapted this story for Learning English. Kelly J. Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

display – v. to put something where people can see it

beat up – v. to hit something or someone repeatedly

slump - n. a sudden decrease in prices, value, amount, etc.

practice - v. to do something again and again in order to become better at it