LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Whether he described a gun buy back or a confiscation depends upon who you ask. Whether his call will benefit the candidate or gun retailers also depends upon who you ask. But a Kentucky gun store owner says Beto O'Rourke's comments during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate will likely help some retailers dealing with the so-called "Trump Slump.”
Those in the firearms industry use the term, "Trump Slump", to describe a financial downturn in their business after President Donald Trump took office. Some suggest that the arguably most memorable moment from last night's debate will help the industry even mores-o than the candidate.
"Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47”, Beto O'Rourke told the crowd as his supporters stood and cheered.
The former Texas Congressman was repeating what he said recently on the campaign trail to the appreciation of those calling for assault weapons bans, buybacks or confiscations.
But at Openrange in Crestwood, Kentucky, Barry Laws was hearing something else.
“It literally is the dog whistle for people to go buy guns,” said Laws.
"They don't understand what the 2nd Amendment means to the Constitution so I can only imagine that they're uninformed people that want to feel good about doing something,” he added.
Laws has survived the rollercoaster financial times that have come to gun store owners in recent years, and for that there is an industry term.
“The Trump Slump,” he said, “and what that is is when he got elected, everything went down, all the sales of firearms went down. We have lost two of the biggest wholesalers in the United States. We have lost locally four really nice gun stores.
Laws claims that is, “because nobody is interested in owning a firearm because there's no threat to owning a firearm.”
FBI data shows background checks connected to sales and permits began a steady climb after President Barack Obama took office. Barry Laws and others credit part of that increase to those fearful that the government was going to ban or confiscate some firearms.
In President Trump's first full year in office, 9 out of 12 months saw decreases in year-over-year background checks with 2017 experiencing a decrease of 2.3 million.
Now that O'Rourke is openly campaigning on what some call "confiscation", Barry Laws expects the numbers to continue this year's trend of rebounding from the so-called "Trump Slump.”
“It just makes people excited about buying. They just want to buy again. So, they are actually doing the opposite of what they say they are trying to do. They are going to put more AR-15s, AK-47s, you name it, in the hands of people than if they just shut their mouths,” he said.
It's not just firearms retailers who may make money off the O'Rourke comments.
O’Rourke’s campaign began selling a t-shirt with his quote on it and their digital director reported their best hour of fundraising after that debate moment.