President Donald Trump took the stage at the NRA annual meeting in a return to the most powerful gun lobby where he garnered significant support during last year’s election. (April 28) AP
South Dakotans still like their guns.
Whether it is a continued growth in concealed carry permits or the sales of hunting rifles, gun interests remain strong, those who track the industry say.
Across the country, there are reports of what is being called the “Trump Slump,” a dip in sales after a bump in interest before last November’s election. Some citizens at the time worried that if Hillary Clinton were elected, gun ownership rights would slip and certain models of guns would be pulled from the market.
Steve Naatjes, owner of Gary’s Gun Shop on West 41st Street, says handgun sales have stayed consistent, spurred by muggings and shootings, whether locally or nationally. “Handgun sales are always strong,” he says.
South Dakota’s total pistol permit numbers climbed to 96,047 in November last year during the presidential election season, a jump of 8,572 compared with the beginning of 2016. After dipping back down some, the number of permits as of July 31 was 95,140.
When it comes to new permit and renewals, there were 2,921 in March of this year compared to 1,331 in July, according to the S.D. Secretary of State’s Office.
Annual new permits and renewals are at 14,423 so far this year, compared to a 10-year high last year at 30,029. That compares to 11,533 in 2007, state records show.
Sales of assault rifles picked up before the election but have scaled back, Naatjes says. “Before the election, they were extremely hot of course. Fear of the Hillary,” he says. “Now it’s calmed down to normal.”
The AR-style gun sales have slipped some but people ages 21 to 85 still come in the store daily interested in buying one, he says.
Alex Lerdal of Sioux Falls stopped by the store late last week to buy a 9-mm pistol to add to his gun collection. The 23-year-old Sioux Falls man has been stationed in Japan for three years serving in the U.S. Navy. He also renewed his concealed carry permit, which had expired while he was overseas.
“I like guns, and I see their purpose as a tool,” he said. “It’s all about the user who’s holding it.”
South Dakotans tend to respect guns, he said. It’s part of the culture.
“Around here, almost everyone has one. It doesn’t have to be for self-defense. It doesn’t have to be for hunting,” he said.
Nationally, a sales slump is more obvious.
Nebraska-based Cabella’s said that store sales decreased 9.3 percent in the most recent quarter compared to the same time a year ago, and the retailer said firearms and shooting-related products were responsible for nearly half of the decline. The decline was the result of several things, including the election and the anniversaries of several tragedies a year ago.
On the manufacturer level, sales have slipped because companies flooded the market when sales were high, some producing cheaper versions of ARs that buyers weren’t interested in, local sellers say.
“It is still the number one prairie dog and coyote gun,” Naatjes says.
And going into hunting season, gun stores here are always busy. “The shotguns and the rifles are going at a pretty brisk rate,” he says.
On Minnesota Avenue, Action Pawn owner Gary Dodd says sales might be down slightly overall for certain types of guns. But overall, sales remain strong among collectors and other buyers interested in hunting and personal protection, he says. He continues to see strong, possibly slightly slower, internet gun sales, too, where buyers have to have the guns delivered to a store and pick them up.
Dodd does see changes in the economy but not with gun sales.
“I think that the economy is in a downturn, but I say that because the number of people that need to borrow money is increasing,” he says. “We’re on the front lines. We have the people come in that wear gold and diamonds on every finger … then we have the people coming in pulling off their boots because they need to buy beer. Our customer base is very diverse.”
Total new, renewal regular permits
2017 to date – 14,423
2016 – 30,029
2015 – 22,554
2014 – 18,656
2013 – 26,863
2012 – 17,160
2011 – 15,332
2010 – 14,839
2009 – 16,095
2008 – 13,838
2007 – 11,533
2006 – 11,763
Source: South Dakota Secretary of State
Trump said there would be fewer casualties in mass attacks if there had been “guns on the other side.”