Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

This Las Vegas Gun Store Is Banking on a Clinton Victory

A ‘Pre-Hillary’ assault rifle sale may be a preview of things to come.

A Las Vegas gun store, having resigned itself to a Democratic presidential victory on Nov. 8, has launched a “Pre-Hillary Sale,” sparking a modest media sensation reaching as far away as New York and Washington, D.C.

The store, Westside Armory, bought an ad last weekend in the sports section of the Las Vegas Review-Journal saying, “Don't wait! Prices will skyrocket after Crooked Hillary gets in.” The ad—for a Smith & Wesson AR-15 military-style rifle priced at $699.99—echoes a favorite put-down by Republican nominee Donald Trump of his rival Hillary Clinton. It also picks up on a theme that we’ve reported on in the past: that the gun industry has counted on fear of a Clinton victory to drive firearm sales. The conventional wisdom—proven repeatedly during the Obama administration, especially following gun massacres in Newtown, Conn., and Orlando—is that gun owners who fear Democratic politicians will tighten firearm laws are prone to run out and buy another weapon. 

Westside Armory owner Cameron Hopkins said via e-mail: “I was acutely aware the ad would be controversial, so I had to be very careful to imply we are not in favor of Hillary winning, even though we acknowledge the certainty of it.” He also noted the influence of the National Rifle Association: “As a retail business, we are apolitical except for the ‘gun issue’ and for that we must follow the candidate(s) and positions supported by the NRA,” which has endorsed Trump.

Trump has falsely accused Clinton of seeking to “get rid of all guns” and abolish the Second Amendment (which only Congress and three-quarters of the states could do). What she has proposed, among other measures, is reestablishing a ban on “assault weapons” that could include the type of large-capacity rifle that Westside Armory put on sale. The Smith & Wesson advertised by the Las Vegas shop accommodates ammunition magazines containing 30 rounds.  

Shortly after opening his store on Monday morning, Hopkins said he had yet to see a pickup in shoppers. But he did write about taking a call “from someone in Louisiana wanting to buy ‘10 or 15’ of the rifles in the ad! I informed the man that, ‘Sorry, you have to be a resident of the state’” in which the firearm dealer is located.

Hopkins and Westside Armory were the subjects of an in-depth article in Bloomberg Businessweek published in January. His comments then were prescient:

Hopkins expects the debate over the issue in the 2016 presidential election to drive more sales at Westside Armory. He says he doesn’t relish the candidacy of a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the two Democratic hopefuls, inspiring shopping sprees, but business is business, after all.

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