NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Gun Makers Face Shrinking Market

October 26, 1999

Hunting and target shooting are decreasing in popularity, while such activities as bicycling and kayaking are luring people away from firing ranges, experts report. So firearms makers are facing the prospect of a shrinking market.

  • U.S. gun production and imports have fallen more than 20 percent since the late 1970s and analysts predict little or no overall growth in the decade ahead.
  • The ranks of gun wholesalers have declined by about 16 percent -- to about 160 -- since 1996.
  • Industry analysts say that with more than 200 million guns already in civilian hands, the market may be nearing saturation.
  • The proportion of men who said they owned a gun has fallen from 52 percent in the 1980s to 38 percent as of 1998, according to the National Opinion Research Center -- while female ownership has hovered around 11 percent since 1980.

Hunting and target shooting account for 85 percent of consumer gun sales.

Gun industry insiders contend that school shootings and constant reports of weapons offenses have created a negative image of firearms and left them tainted in the public's mind -- even while violent crime has dropped nationally for seven straight years.

Source: Vanessa O'Connell and Paul M. Barrett, "In the Market for Guns, the Customers Aren't Coming Back for More," Wall Street Journal, October 26, 1999.


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