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Blog: Joshua Green on Politics

Barack Obama, "Greatest Gun Salesman in America"

Last fall, I wrote about a surprising trend: gun sales have skyrocketed since Barack Obama became president. During that time, the stock of gunmaker Sturm Ruger (RGR) has outperformed gold. Analysts aren’t quite sure what’s causing the trend. Many anticipated a boost in sales after the election from gun owners fearful that Obama might outlaw assault weapons — the so-called “fear trade.” But they expected a brief spike, no more. Instead, gun sales kept rising, and they’ve continued to rise even since last fall. Ruger, which was up 400 percent at the time, is now up more than 500 percent.

Despite the fact that Obama hasn’t made the slightest feint toward regulating guns, firearms enthusiasts have whipped themselves into a paranoid frenzy, convinced that this is all just part of some elaborate conspiracy. Don’t believe me? Here’s how Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, put it to the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) two weeks ago:

Lip service to gun owners is just part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term. We see the president’s strategy crystal clear: Get re-elected and, with no more elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms’ freedom, erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and excise it from the U.S. Constitution…When the sun goes down on election day Barack Obama will have America’s gun owners to thank for his defeat.

Note the twist: It’s no longer Obama’s election that poses a mortal danger to the liberty of Americans who want to assemble arsenals — it’s Obama’s re-election. I’m no financial analyst, but you’d have to imagine that that line of reasoning isn’t going to do anything to depress gun sales.

One thing I hadn’t appreciated when I wrote my original piece was the breadth of the trend — it’s not just gun sales, but ammunition, and all those new firearms have brought the government a lot of revenue in the form of federal excise taxes. The website (what, you don’t have it bookmarked?) has an eye-popping graphic on just why Obama is, as they put it, the “greatest gun salesman in America.”

Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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