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How consumption and prices of guns and ammunition have increased in recent years

By Cat Spencer and Kassi Hall

Personal Consumption Expenditures: Durable goods: Sporting Equipment, supplies, guns, and ammunition

Producer Price Index by Industry: Small Arms Ammunition Manufacturing: All Other Ammo Products, Including Industrial Shells and Cartridges, Air Gun Ammo, Percussion Caps

As guns become a more divisive issue and the frequency of news reports is on the rise, it becomes more important to analyze the rate of personal consumption of guns and ammunition. As more guns have entered the market, price has also been on the rise. The Personal Consumption Expenditures on durable goods like sporting equipment, supplies, guns and ammunition remained low until around 1970, when they began increasing steadily and then sharply beginning around 1990. Despite a dip in consumption during the Great Recession, the consumption of these durable goods has only continued to increase rapidly. In 2017, a record $74.814 billion increasing by almost $20 billion in only 10 years.

Analyzing the Producer Price Index in Small Arms Ammunition Manufacturing combined with the Personal Consumption Expenditure graph displays how, despite the fact that the prices for ammunition are continually rising, even when the consumption of these goods saw a downturn during the Great Recession, prices for ammunition increased. While the rate of increase was not as significant as during non-recessional times, they increased nonetheless. As demand has increased, so too has the price of these items, likely leading to a more lucrative market and more companies entering the field, clear with the emergence of gun shows and pop-up markets and the entrance of gun supply sections in national chains like WalMart.

With the political climate of the times and walkouts being held by students all around the country, it is interesting to see how gun rates have increased in recent years. Especially as mass shootings and school shootings have increased, so too has the consumption of guns, ammunition, and supplies. As time goes on, and gun reform policies come to the table for Congress, how these rates change will be extremely interesting. As the consumption of durable goods like guns and ammunition have increased, it is clear that the prices (shown by the PPI graph for small arms ammunition) have risen steadily to keep up with high demand. The easiest explanation for this increase in demand would be that proponents of the argument that we must arm ourselves in order to protect ourselves from these shootings are increasing the amount of guns that they’re purchasing. Though it is difficult to pinpoint what purchases are contributing to this increase in consumption, it is clear that the increase in mass shooting incidents is in no way decreasing the consumption of guns and ammunition.

28 thoughts on “How consumption and prices of guns and ammunition have increased in recent years

  1. longa20

    It is very interesting to note that the prices of guns and ammunition have continued to rise, even in the wake of protests and mass shootings. Despite these shootings, it seems like gun manufacturers are unlikely to change their ways. Perhaps one way to address this issue is to go straight to the manufacturers as if less guns are produced then the problem will begin to be addressed.

    1. hallk20

      If fewer guns are produced, it would be interesting to see how the supply and demand curve would shift, unless (hopefully) demand too decreases with the times and LRAS and could remain in equilibrium. A decrease in the supply would likely increase price, and there would be pushback from heavy gun supporters who may not be able to afford price increase.

  2. warej20

    This was an interesting trend to follow. It seems that there is certainly a market and demand for guns and ammunition. To some extent the publicity surrounding guns in the news has possibly led to increased demand. As long as a strong market is available I believe that suppliers will continue to increase supply. I am sure that this issue will continue to be discussed in the future.

    1. spencerc20

      It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation and/or causation directly between the publicity of guns and gun sales. I think you're right about as long as a strong market, suppliers will continue to increase the supply available. I guess that means that if we're hoping to decrease the number of guns out there, then we have to decrease consumption and cause a decrease in production.

    2. alisonw20

      I agree that the publicity surrounding the second amendment and school shootings have possibly driven up demand for guns and ammunition. Many people who support guns want to buy guns now just incase a law is passed to restrict their ability to purchase weapons. Also, many people buy these guns as protection. Despite the increasing rate of shootings, consumption of guns and ammunition has risen as well. Will there be a point where the American people stop consuming these goods because of the negative impacts they can have on society?

      1. hallk20

        Thats definitely a good question. Perhaps Governmental policy change will cause a shift in the consumption of these goods. But, if support for the second amendment, the NRA, and gun in general are rising in the aftermath of school shootings, It is hard to tell if the government will be willing to pass legislation, especially with consumption of these durable goods increasing .

  3. the prof

    We need to be careful to note that the data don't correct for inflation. That may not matter for the recent, shorter time period but it does make it very hard to compare what's happened in the longer run, the 1970s versus the 2010s. So you could either find a "real" series (or divide by the CPI) or look at this part of consumption as a share of total consumption.

    I wonder if the data are just for guns and munitions or also include outboard motors for boaters? The focus on "durable goods" would likely eliminate baseballs and tennis racquets and fishing lures, but "sporting goods" might be a catch-all category. (My hunch is that boating has its own category.)

    1. spencerc20

      In response to the second paragraph, it does seem like things like boating would have their own category possibly more in line with vehicles instead of sporting goods. Unfortunately, FRED would not provide us with a greater breakdown, but it would be nice to see how guns and munition stood completely on their own.

  4. Jimmie Johnson III

    this is a very interesting and relevant post for a current societal issue. I think we will have to wait about a decade to start seeing the real effect of the current gun violence on sales. As the younger generation grow into adults we will really see if their passion to fight guns and enact reform will effect gun sales, or will time lessen their drive and cause them to forget their youth time cause.

    1. spencerc20

      I think you're right on the time frame of when we can start seeing effects on sales. It will be interesting to see how rapid that change is or if it is very gradual.

  5. Cade Hornak

    To speculate an answer, I think many consumers who purchase guns fear that after the recent tragic school shootings, gun laws will tighten and become much more strict. Seeing as these mass shootings have been occurring for several years now and more and more people are calling for change and common sense gun laws, these purchasers want to buy as many guns as possible before they go away. However, clearly domestic policy has been ineffective or has not yet taken place in making these weapons less available during these last eight years.

    1. spencerc20

      That's an interesting perspective and explanation for the increase of gun sales over the past few years. I think you're probably right about their logic behind their purchases in addition to the mindset that they want to protect themselves from future attacks. This fear does seem to be unwarranted, as you point out, because we haven't done much in relation to gun control domestically.

  6. moraifa19

    The comments about adjusting for inflation are clearly important to see the true trend of purchasing guns. However, another route is to look at how many guns per capita are being sold today as compared with previous years to have a semblance of the percentage of the population purchasing guns and ammunition.

    1. spencerc20

      That's definitely something important to look into. Unfortunately we weren't able to find that data on FRED and didn't think to look in depth other places for more data.

  7. bearupk20

    I wish there could be research done that would explain the increase in gun prices and ammunition because, like you mentioned, it makes sense that the demand for guns would increase if people feel like they need to protect themselves which would therefore increase the prices, but at the same time, when events such as school shootings, walkouts, etc. arise, there is a lot of opposition to guns, which would decrease demand and decrease price. It is interesting to me how these two factors would, or if they even do, play into one another and result in the rising prices of ammunition and guns.

    1. spencerc20

      It seems like no matter how much we protest guns, the price continues to increase like there is a demand increase. You would expect the opposite to happen especially when there were videos of gun owners destroying their AR-15s following the Parkland shooting. The pricing data is on the wholesale level so maybe that has something to do with why it's increasing?

      1. laytonr20

        I think part of this has to do with the opposite response. People are afraid that as a result of the shootings there will be a legislative response to make it harder to purchase these guns, and people want to get ahead of increased background checks or whatever else happens. The question to me would be which effect outweighs the other. Is that increased demand larger or smaller than the decreased demand on the other side. Not to mention that those who would destroy their guns have already bought them, so their destruction does not really effect the overall demand, I would think.

  8. myerse20

    Did y'all look into how policies on guns have affected the consumption of them? I think it would be very interesting to see if certain laws have changed things. For example, the California law that stated that guns that have a vertical grip can't be sold in the state. Many people began to adapt other types of guns to make them have vertical grips, causing me to wonder if people went out and bought more guns? Or maybe the policy was a deterrent? It would definitely be interesting to look at policies correlated with the trends in the guns and ammo markets.

    1. spencerc20

      We did not look into the correlation between policy and consumption, unfortunately. That would definitely be an interesting follow-up post to this one. It seems like that one specific policy would change the type of guns that people were buying, but maybe not how many they were buying.

  9. legarthb20

    I would be super interested to see if the new laws have changed the curves. I think that the demand for guns after a school shooting may actually increase due to people wanting to protect themselves. It would be great to see if things change in the future when more policies are enacted.

    1. hallk20

      Here is a fairly new graph with 2018 data reported in March 2018 on the personal consumption of expenditures on durable goods: Sporting equipment, supplies, guns, and ammunition. It may still be too soon to see how the spending on guns post Parkland changed, but it is also interesting to go back to look at the difference in 2012 and 2013 rates, with 2012 being when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred. It still seems as though gun rates increased.

      https://alfred.stlouisfed.org/series?seid=DSPGRC1A027NBEA&utm_source=series_page&utm_medium=related_content&utm_term=related_resources&utm_campaign=alfred

  10. Chris Surran

    This is a very interesting post. I know that several big retailers have stopped carrying certain brands that are affiliated with the NRA/Guns. It makes sense that more people would want to buy guns now as they are uncertain that they will be able to purchase these weapons in the near future - legislations could be passed that makes acquiring these weapons much harder.

    1. spencerc20

      Your point about retailers is an interesting part of this because it is a way (without legislation) that it has become more difficult to purchase guns. There has been a certain market response to a lack of certain policy as businesses have taken it upon themselves to control the ease of access to guns. Though people are still able to purchase guns other places, they are already seeing that certain ones are becoming more difficult to obtain.

    2. pollarde

      I completely agree with you. Even though no legislation has been made yet, the current climate surrounding guns and gun laws, with protests and school shootings all over the news, definitely instills a fear in some people that guns will not only be harder to obtain not because of more intense procedures to acquire a gun, rather the availability to purchase these guns since these big retailers are refusing to carry certain brands affiliated with the NRA.

  11. trammellc20

    I found this very interesting as a study of consumer behavior. When the narrative of government threats to gun rights began, so did the increase in gun consumption. It will be interesting to see if the decisions by companies to stop carrying certain types of guns will halt this.

    1. hallk20

      You're right, with the AR15 being under fire right now for being a weapon who's primary use is mass killing, it will be interesting to see if consumption rates specifically on AR-15s (and bump stocks) will decrease or increase.

  12. Katie Paton

    There is no doubt that recently there have been too many mass school shootings causing many students to protest gun laws. It is interesting that durable goods such as ammunition have increased greatly during this time. When looking at this data and debating gun control one must be careful to take into account lurking variables that could be effecting the outcomes of this data. It would be interesting to see how media plays a role in gun violence as children now grow up watching violent movies and playing violent video games.

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