By Noel Randewich
(Reuters) – Shares of gun makers have been gaining ground as Democratic candidate Joe Biden leads polls, and if he wins the presidential election in November there are expectations of a renewed surge in gun sales that could drive shares even higher.
Shares of Smith & Wesson Brands and Sturm Ruger have both rallied around 8% since late September, mirroring Biden’s widening lead in the polls since his debate against President Donald Trump. The S&P 500 is up 4% in that period.
Fears about the coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest related to protests over racial justice and worries about a potentially disputed presidential election on Nov. 3 have created a surge in gun demand this year. Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith last month said the industry was unable to keep up with demand.
A victory by Biden and his vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris, who favor increased gun regulation, could further stoke demand for firearms – and shares of firearms makers – particularly if Democrats wrest control of the Senate from Republicans, giving them majorities in both houses of Congress and making it easier to approve legislation.
“Should we see a Biden-Harris administration get elected, I would anticipate a surge in sales of modern sporting rifles, high-capacity magazines and corresponding ammunition,” said Aegis Capital analyst Rommel Dionisio, using an industry term for military-style rifles, a high-margin product category for firearm manufacturers.
An aggregation of betting odds by RealClearPolitics reflects a 65% chance Biden will defeat Trump, up from 55% before the Sept. 29 presidential debate.
Smith & Wesson’s stock is up 135% this year, while Sturm Ruger has gained 51%.
Shares of Sturm Ruger surged nearly 900% in the eight years from Democratic President Barack Obama’s election victory in November 2008 to the November 2016 election, which Trump won. Sturm Ruger is up just 10% during Trump’s nearly years in office. During the same 2008 to 2016 period, the S&P 500 rose about 113%.
Biden has promised to prohibit the sale of military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, similar to a 10-year ban that expired in 2004. He also promises to require owners of military-style weapons to either sell them to the government or register them with the government.
Shares of gun makers surged ahead of the 2016 election on expectations Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton would win. Trump’s victory drove the industry into a two-year slump, with customers no longer worried they would lose access to firearms.
Firearm sales surged anew in 2020 due to fears related to the pandemic, and following social unrest in several U.S. cities and calls to defund police departments.
Federal background checks, a proxy for firearm sales to U.S. consumers, in the first nine months of 2020 reached 28.8 million, even before the typically busy holiday shopping season, topping the record 28.4 million checks done in the 2019 full year.
First-time buyers made up 40% of gun sales in early 2020, compared to an average of 24% in recent years, according to a survey of gun shops by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association.
Even if Trump wins a second term and dispels expectations of gun control measures, the potential for renewed protests against across the deeply divided country could drive additional demand for handguns for self defense, Dionisio said.
Reporting by Noel Randewich; editing by Ira Iosebashvili and Leslie Adler.