The economic impact of the firearms industry is up 66 percent since the beginning of the Great Recession, providing an unexpected shot in the arm for the economy, according to a new study.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation says the economic impact of firearm sales — a figure that includes jobs. taxes and sales — hit $31 billion in 2011, up from $19 billion in 2008.
Jobs in the firearms business jumped 30 percent from 2008 to 2011, when the industry employed 98,750.
The industry paid $2.5 billion in federal taxes in 2011, up 66 percent in three years.
"Ours is an industry with a rich history and heritage that remains vital and important to the American economy today," NSSF Senior Vice President Lawrence G. Keane said in a statement. "To millions of Americans our industry's products represent liberty, security and recreation."
Some in the industry attribute the jump in sales to fears the Obama administration will tighten gun control laws in a possible second term.
"There's a concern that in the second term the Obama administration would lead an attempt to restrict gun ownership," Mr. Keane said.
That concern, known in the industry as "the Obama factor," has led many gun owners to purchase now in hopes of avoiding more restrictions and regulations later.
"Some people jokingly refer to [President Obama] as the salesman of the year for the industry," Mr. Keane said.
Mr. Keane said the president doesn't deserve all the credit for the sales growth.
He said more young people and women are getting into gun ownership.
"You cannot attribute all the increase simply to the Obama factor," he said. "It's a factor, it's an important factor, but it's not the only reason."
Although there is no single indicator that tracks the number of firearms sold in the country, the FBI reported that a record 14.4 million criminal background checks were requested for gun purchases in 2010, and that preliminary numbers project the figure to be above 16 million for 2011.
According to the NSSF's numbers, requests for gun-related background checks was up some 17.3 percent for the month of January 2012 compared to the same period a year earlier — the 20th straight monthly increase in background check requests.
FBI officials say that just over 1 percent of such background checks result in denials, and not every background check results in a final gun purchase. But the numbers are widely considered a reliable proxy for gun sales trends generally.
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