‘‘Wouldn’t you want to be in a business where customers are just begging to hand you money?’’ said Bill Bernstein, owner of East Side Gun Shop in Nashville, Tenn.
The NRA itself has done well, too. The lobbying organization has had more cash on hand during the Obama years than it did since 2004, finishing 2010 with more than $24 million, according to the most recent figures available.
‘‘Which makes it incredibly ironic that the gun lobby is opposing Obama,’’ said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Gross said Obama, who initially campaigned to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired under Bush, has done what he said was ‘‘disappointingly little’’ on gun control.
But the gun lobby says the success of the industry does not indicate that Obama is good for Second Amendment rights.
‘‘This is the most dangerous election in our lifetimes,’’ NRA chief executive officer Wayne LaPierre said in February, a point he’s made regularly during the NRA’s campaign to defeat Obama.
The NRA stands by its 2008 predictions that Obama would be anti-gun. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam noted Obama’s appointment of two Supreme Court justices whom the NRA considers anti-gun, plus Obama’s support of a United Nations arms trade treaty and the botched gun-walking operation called Fast and Furious, which the NRA believes was concocted as part of a plan to enforce new gun restrictions.
‘‘Gun owners and hunters fear that a second Obama administration with no future political campaigns to worry about will try to destroy this great American freedom,’’ Arulanandam said.
It is hard to find a single aspect of the gun world that isn’t thriving.
Fears of a Democratic president taking office and issuing stricter gun control laws led to an initial spike in gun sales in 2008, giving gun dealers some of the highest profit margins they've ever seen. But even after it became clear Obama was not going to make gun control a priority as president, the industry has continued to do well.
Fear of crime may be driving some sales. The number of violent crimes rose by 18 percent in the U.S. in 2011, according to Justice Department figures released this week. It was the first year-to-year increase for violent crime since 1993, marking the end of a long string of declines.
Firearms sales typically increase during poor economic times, said Steve Sanetti, chief executive officer and president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the industry. More Americans are hunting and shooting for recreation as well, he said. Sanetti attributes that to military servicemen and women with firearms experience returning to civilian life and wanting to keep up with shooting as a pastime. He also said recreational shooting is a relatively cheap and accessible hobby, drawing in new buyers.
Voters have made clear that gun control isn’t a priority. A recent AP-National Constitution Center poll found that 49 percent of adults felt laws limiting gun ownership infringe on the public’s right to bear arms, while 43 percent said such laws do not infringe on those rights. After the recent mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin, 52 members of Congress sponsored a bill to track bulk sales of ammunition, but the legislation went nowhere.
Bernstein and others attribute some of the industry’s success to all but one state — Illinois — offering permits to carry a concealed weapon. In some cases, people have been buying guns because they’re afraid of the day they won’t be able to.
‘‘Any gun owner might fear that,’’ said Justin Paulson, a 22-year-old grad student in Nashville who recently purchased a handgun from Bernstein’s store. Paulson said he’s been collecting guns since he was 18. He’s currently up to 16. He purchased his most recent handgun because he thought the one he had was too small to defend himself. And the timing of his purchase was deliberate. ‘‘Chances are things might be a little tighter in terms of control come November,’’ he said.
Fears about new gun laws mean dollar signs for the gun industry.
Bernie Conaster, owner of Virginia Arms Co. in Manassas, Va., has doubled the size of his suburban Washington gun store, hired more employees and paid bonuses since Obama has been in office.
‘‘I certainly don’t want to stoke the fire,’’ said Conaster, ‘‘but I'll ride the wave while it’s here.’’
Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo and Pete Yost, AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius, and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
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