SHOT Show 2019: Gun industry feels different by state

Updated January 23, 2019 - 5:59 am

Brian Galek, owner of Up North Gun Shop, said firearm sales have been so strong since opening last year, he is already expanding his store.

The Wisconsin businessman is in Las Vegas this week to attend his first Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show at the Sands Expo and Convention Center to peruse the latest firearms, visit local ranges and meet other owners.

Though overall U.S. guns sales have been weak since President Donald Trump took office in 2016, easing concerns about tighter gun legislation, the slump hasn’t been felt equally around the country, SHOT Show participants say.

“We are using them regularly in Wisconsin for hunting and sports shooting — we are not collecting them,” Galek said.

Americans loaded up on AR-15 and other military-style weapons under President Barack Obama as his administration discussed restricting sales. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

“While there are certain areas that may have seen a drop over the last few years, others have been stable. It is not uniform,” said Dave Tanner, founder of Shot-Shield, who was showing off his products that help ranges capitalize and remove lead.

And while gun sales might have slipped, there are other segments of the firearms industry that remain stable, including ranges, attendees said.

Galek plans to build one adjacent to his shop so consumers can test products before buying them, a trend throughout the country as shops battle online retailers for business. Tanner is hoping to capture business because of greater environmental demands toward outdoor ranges.

Tighter state regulation toward licensing and conceal-carry around the country could impact sales in some states, such as Illinois. Yet, not everyone in the firearms industry in those states will lose.

Mike Ortiz, a firearms trainer, said he will be busier this year after California passed a law effective Jan. 1 requiring people to have eight hours of training before receiving a conceal-carry license.

Demand is coming from a wide range of people, including “soccer moms and dads,” he said.

GunBroker, the leading online gun retailer with more than $600 million annually in sales, is also trying to capitalize on tighter restrictions toward the gun industry. GunBroker on Tuesday announced it will be offering its subscribers, including consumers and shops, the ability to transact with a new coin running on blockchain technology. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The cryptocurrency is meant to counteract moves by some financial institutions, including PayPal, to restrict the purchase of guns using its platforms. The financial institutions decided to curb transactions following nation-wide outrage over mass shootings.

SHOT Show is the firearms industry’s largest annual gathering with 58,000 people, including many from overseas, traveling to Las Vegas for the four-day event. Arms manufacturers from Turkey and Israel are among the 2,400 exhibitors.

Ike Kaplan, president of Turkey-based Garaysar, was exhibiting for the first time this year to show off the company’s shotguns. Garaysar, which also has an office in Florida, had nine models on display.

“It is one thing to see the product on the TV or in magazines, but here the customers can feel them. It makes a difference,” he said.

The National Rifle Association has a large booth at the show to sign up new members and explain its lobbying efforts. NRA representatives at the show declined to speak with the Review-Journal.

Gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Remington also have large exhibits at the show. Representatives said company spokespeople were not available for comment.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

Contact Todd Prince at 702-383-0386 or Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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