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by Jim Shepherd Editor, TheOutdoorWire.com

Obama named ‘Gun Salesman of the Year’(Part 2)

Paranoid? Probably.

Pointless? Don’t think so.

When we named President Barack Obama the "gun salesman of the year" a few weeks ago, we received what could only be described as a mixed reaction from inside the shooting world. Some thought it was pure PR grandstanding, some thought it appropriate and others were afraid we were teasing the anti-gun forces when we should be keeping our heads down and our respective mouths shut.

Looking back, we do not regret the decision, but certainly didn’t expect the responses we received. Surprisingly, it was better received and taken more seriously outside then industry than in it.

“Mainstream” media bombarded us with interview requests. I talked with newspaper and magazine reporters and did radio and TV interviews that made me realize gun owners are regarded as curiosities by many former colleagues.

It became blindingly apparent that these “mainstream” reporters, editors and talk show hosts had absolutely no concept of the depth of the contributions the firearms industry has made to local economies, tax revenues and, perhaps most shocking to them all, conservation.

Apparently, they thought the gun business was the exception to all business rules, existing only because of a base of dedicated loonies (that’s us) were living outside society, hoping for an outbreak of martial law or something.

When it came time to talk about the economic value of the firearms industry, it seemed they had never seriously considered the possibility that single mothers might work for a gun company or gun companies actually employed “normal” people.

In interviews from California to New York City, when radio hosts were asked if they knew that a voluntary tax on firearms was the majority source of conservation funding, the response was a stunned silence. They had no idea firearms owners willingly paid to support conservation, or that legitimate gun owners could be school teachers, ministers, lawyers, doctors or even youth competing in recognized sporting events.

In other words, we had been effectively marginalized by those who had dictated the terms we used in discussions (they didn’t like my use of the phrase “modern rifle” rather than “assault weapon,” but agreed it was actually more accurate), defined our image (“you mean you worked for CNN?” was more than one incredulous inquiry) and created a caricature of gun owners that was part clown, part-menace and always loved to shout “from my cold dead hands.”

But a pattern of behavior emerged in each of these conversations. When presented with facts, their positions grudgingly began to change. When they realized firearms was a billion-dollar industry category that employed real people and made significant – and quantifiable – contributions to conservation and their communities, they realized they had either been sold a bill of goods by anti-gun groups or been intellectually lazy in their so-called pursuit of accuracy.

Either way, it was surprising how these interviews turned from rapid-fire deliveries of bad jokes about shooters (or accusatory questions) to an honest discussion of the financial impact a revitalized “Assault Weapons Ban” would have on a billion-dollar industry – an industry that employs real human beings and did not need a government bailout.

They saw it as an opportunity to have some fun with a gun group and found themselves discussing a business story. In that context, nothing about an AWB made any sense. Neither does holding an industry responsible for the actions of criminals, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Meanwhile, it becomes more apparent that the boom in gun sales is not across the board. Retailers are telling us hunting rifles are sitting on the shelves, but shotguns have joined high-capacity pistols and modern rifles as hot sellers – especially in the pump-action category that is adaptable to many uses – including home defense.

Meanwhile, in Rochester, New Hampshire there were more layoffs at Thompson/Center Arms, where owner Smith & Wesson has furloughed 37 workers and laid off 66 others. Combined with 36 layoffs last March and 80 more in September, the T/C workforce is down to about 50% from a year ago.