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Politics & Policy

Banned by U.S. Sanctions, AK-47s Are Going, Going … Gone


Photograph by Lodewijk Duijvesteijn/Gallery Stock


Last week I wrote about how the U.S. may have hit “peak gun”. After years of steadily increasing under President Obama, gun sales have recently plunged, along with the stock prices of the two publicly traded American gun manufacturers, Sturm Ruger (RGR) and Smith & Wesson (SWHC). Here’s a chart illustrating the trend:

What drove up gun sales during this period was mainly a series of panics among firearms enthusiasts that Obama would impose some form of gun control–and that they’d better load up their personal arsenals before they lost the opportunity. Six years into the Obama presidency, it’s become clear to even the most paranoid gun owners that the president lacks the wherewithal to do what they fear. Consequently, sales have fallen.

There’s been one notable exception. In July, the Treasury Department declared that U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of eastern Ukraine meant that U.S. gun dealers would be forbidden from importing Russian-made Kalashnikov weapons, such as the AK-47. In the U.S., as elsewhere, Kalashnikovs are highly popular, with Americans buying tens of thousands a year.

The Washington Post reported this week that the sanctions set off a classic, panic-driven buying frenzy (though you can still buy European-made AK-47 knockoffs or get this guy in New Hampshire to build you a custom one).

As a Leesburg (Va.) gun dealer, Tyler Whidby, told the Post, “Obama is the world’s best gun salesman. Every two to four months, somebody says something about gun control, and people turn around to get a gun.”

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

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