By Robert M. Hausman
U.S. Dept. of the Treasury figures indicate that 2005 retail sales of firearms and ammunition rose 2.6% for a total volume of $2.1 billion for the year.
During 2005, approximately 4.7 million new guns were sold, bringing the estimated number of citizen-owned firearms in the U.S. to more than 290 million. The number of American households with at least one firearm is now estimated at nearly 110 million. The figures also indicate a 27.7% increase in firearm sales volume since 1998.
Of the various firearm types, the largest gains were seen in retail sales of handguns (pistols and revolvers). Handgun sales rose 3% while long-gun (rifle and shotgun) sales rose 1.8%. Ammunition sales rose 3.5%.
The number of new firearms produced by American firms for retail sale in the U.S. totaled 2,947,008 during 2005, according to ATF and a total of 22.8 million firearms have been produced in the U.S. since 1998.
According to the Census Bureau, the number of firearms imported for retail sale in the U.S. was 1,845,366 and a total of 10.7 million firearms have been imported into the U.S. for retail sale since 1998.
National Right-to-Carry Bill Introduced
Those with permits from one state to carry a concealed firearm would generally be able to exercise that right elsewhere under a bill introduced by Sen. George Allen, R-VA. It is a companion bill to one introduced in the House by Reps. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., and Rick Boucher, D-9th.
FNH USA is reported as having moved its inventory of firearms from its Virginia facility to the Browning warehouse in Arnold, Missouri. Both FNH USA and Browning are owned by FN Herstal of Belgium.
South Dakota Welcomes Firearms Companies
South Dakota calls itself “firearm friendly” in a bid to attract firearms firms to relocate. There are presently some 20 firearms companies situated in the state and during 2006 the state is looking to attract additional gun companies as part of an economic development initiative.
“Targeting the firearm industry just makes sense for South Dakota,” says Mary Lehecka Nelson of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “Not only does South Dakota have a great business climate, but it also shines in the issues that are relevant to the firearm industry.”
According to Nelson, South Dakota was the first state in the U.S. to pass legislation stating that no firearm company that lawfully manufactures, sells or distributes a firearm is liable for its unlawful use by another. South Dakota requires no permit to purchase, no registration of firearms, no licensing of owners, no waiting period for long guns and no waiting period for pistols for people with a concealed carry permit. Additionally, it is a “shall issue” concealed carry license state.
“Basically, this sends a strong message to businesses in the firearm industry that South Dakota respects and appreciates this industry. While other states are passing anti-gun legislation, South Dakota is welcoming firearm companies,” Nelson concluded.
NRA Re-elects Board at the 135th NRA Annual Meetings &Exhibits in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The NRA’s Board of Directors re-elected all of its officers – Sandra Froman (President), John Sigler (First Vice President), Ronald Schmeits (Second Vice President), Jim Land (Secretary), and Wilson Phillips (Treasurer). Wayne LaPierre was once again chosen as NRA’s Executive Vice President, and he in turn reappointed Chris W. Cox as NRA-ILA’s Executive Director and Kayne B. Robinson as NRA Executive Director of General Operations.
Next year’s Annual Meetings will be held in St. Louis, Missouri.
Canadian Gun Registry Being Dismantled
The new Canadian Conservative government has taken its first steps to scrap the controversial long-gun registry, beginning with a one-year amnesty for those who have not yet registered their non-restricted firearms.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day says long-gun owners will no longer have to pay to register their weapons and added the government will introduce legislation to eliminate the program brought in by Jean Chrétien’s Liberals 11 years ago.
But until the legislation makes its way through Parliament, Day announced a number of measures that would effectively gut the registry while keeping it the law.
“Our new government simply will not continue to fund ineffective programs. Instead, we will invest our resources to better protect Canadian families and their communities by putting more police officers on the streets and in their communities,” Day said. In addition to long-gun owners not having to pay to register their guns, they won’t be prosecuted if they don’t register them at all. Day added the government would provide refunds to those who have already registered their long guns.
Among other changes Day announced: The government will transfer responsibility for operating the registry from the Canada Firearms Centre to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and it will cut the annual operating budget for the program by $10 million.
Auditor General Sheila Fraser has issued a report that said the former Liberal government hid the cost of the registry, which totaled $946 million at the end of the 2005 fiscal year. Fraser said the Liberals cooked the books and ignored legal advice while hiding the costs from Parliament. Opposition to the long-gun registry is highest among rural Canadians, who say the registry penalizes legal gun owners and does nothing to reduce crime.
The registry has strong support in Quebec and the country’s biggest cities, areas where the Conservatives want to build support. All three opposition political parties support the registry and have vowed to defeat any legislation that would dismantle it.
Air Canada has begun charging a new fee for checking firearms and ammunition, and rumors are that domestic carriers will follow suit. The firearm fee is $50 each direction. The airline says it now applies the fee to all specialty items from surfboards to bicycles. However, according to the Air Canada Web site, golf clubs are not assessed additional fees.
Venezuela May Get Kalashnikov Plant
Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport is reported as holding talks with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to license the manufacture of Kalashnikov rifles there.
Moscow has already signed a deal to supply Venezuela with 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. In May, the U.S. State Department banned arms sales to Venezuela over concerns with its contacts to Iran and Cuba.
Belgium to Tighten Gun Control Laws
MPs in the Belgian Parliament voted almost unanimously in mid-May to tighten gun control laws. The law will change existing regulations in which any adult with identification can buy a gun over the counter without a permit. But in the future, anyone who wants to buy a firearm will be subject to police screening and will need to obtain a gun license first.
Passage of the legislation through parliament was accelerated after a double murder in Antwerp in which a woman and a two-year-old girl were shot and killed. The suspect, an 18-year-old, bought the gun on impulse on the morning of the shootings.
Swiss Government Reviewing Gun Control Laws
The Swiss government is conducting a review of the country’s firearms law, but a significant tightening is not likely.
The draft law foresees slightly stricter regulations for purchasing and keeping guns and rifles, but it falls short of introducing a central database of all firearms in circulation. Presently, all guns, with the exception of single shot arms, have to be registered at the local (cantonal) level.
The Swiss have a long tradition of firearms ownership, and the framers of the U.S. Constitution actually used the Swiss Constitution as a model in drafting some passages of the American document.
Official estimates of the number of firearms held by the Swiss are vague; between one and three million. According to the Small Arms Survey (SAS), an international research program based in Geneva, the per capita figure for weapons ownership in Switzerland is above average.
“This is not due to the legal framework, which is neither liberal nor strict,” says Keith Krause, director of SAS. “It depends far more on cultural and social factors. Switzerland has a traditional culture of bearing arms.”
Soldiers of Switzerland’s militia army are allowed to keep their army rifles and pistols at home. And the various sports involving firearms are particularly popular with more than 150,000 active members of rifle clubs. About 75 million rounds of ammunition are fired every year in Switzerland.
“Things have been this way for centuries. The Swiss learn familiarity with weapons as children, in the company of their fathers,” says Willy Pfund, president of ProTell, an association that campaigns for liberal arms legislation.
“In Switzerland, the percentage of people killed by firearms is slightly higher than in the rest of Western Europe”, says Krause, who admits that it is not possible to identify a direct link between the numbers of weapons in circulation and their use.
The government wants to impose tighter controls, largely to bring regulations into line with the regime in force in the European Union’s Schengen agreement, which Switzerland will be joining in the near future. The draft law includes introducing a mandatory permit for purchasing or keeping all types of firearms. It also foresees a ban on sales through the Internet and mail order advertising, as well as requiring that sales between private individuals be reported (presently private sales do not have to be reported, only those sales made through licensed dealers).
Following the recent murder of Corinne and Alain Rey-Bellet at the hands of the former women’s ski champion’s husband, who shot them with his army pistol, calls were made by various anti-gun activists to prohibit militia members keeping their military firearms at home.
The existing federal law on firearms, accessories and ammunition came into force in Switzerland in 1999.
ProTell has thus far been successful in dissuading the federal government from pushing the idea of instituting a central registration database of privately held firearms.
Importers have found that pressure from the EU, the United Nations and the terms of the Schengen/Dublin accords have kept the government from releasing firearms in the government auctions of surplus material frequently held in Switzerland. Additionally, the government has begun to destroy surplus firearms rather than selling them through auctions.
The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters. The International Firearms Trade covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business covers the domestic market. He also offers FFL-mailing lists to firms interested in direct marketing efforts to the industry. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V10N1 (October 2006)|