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Here’s the depressing reason why gun stocks go up after mass shootings

Here’s the depressing reason why gun stocks go up after mass shootings
[Photo: Christopher Burns]

Mass shootings have become such a regular occurrence in this country that one can now lay out a roadmap of the fallout: First come the news stories documenting the horrifying event. Then Twitter and Facebook fill with thoughts and prayers, calls for actions, and retweets of that Onion article with the headline: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” And then, gun stock prices soar.

That’s what happened today in the wake of what has been described as the deadliest mass shooting on U.S. soil as a gunman and his assault rifle killed at least 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. According to MarketWatch, Smith & Wesson parent American Outdoor Brands Corp.’s stock jumped 2.3%, Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. shares climbed 3.7%, and Vista Outdoor Inc. rising 1.4%. It’s the same thing that happened after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016, after San Bernardino in December 2015, and after the shootings in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, per CNN.

So why do gun stocks jump after a shooting? Fear. However, it is not fear of guns, but fear of gun control. The theory goes that in the wake of a mass shooting, gun lovers worry that Congress will actually do something and enact some form of gun control. Customers rush to the store to buy more guns before someone tries to take them away. (Bloomberg did a pretty solid analysis of this pattern after the Pulse shooting.) Gun sales rose during President Obama’s years in office out of fears that a Democrat in the Oval Office would put gun control in place. That, of course, never materialized.

Since President Trump was elected, after being endorsed by the NRA, share prices in gun manufacturers dropped, because consumers no longer feared gun control legislation. According to CNNSturm Ruger reported in August that its latest quarterly revenues were down 22% from a year ago and that earnings had dropped more than 50%. Now the shooting in Las Vegas has reversed that trend.

Still, it’s pretty clear that Congress is unlikely to ever act on gun control–as this tweet from two years ago says so succinctly:

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