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Several people view a wall of Smith & Wesson handguns during the National Rifle Association convention in 2007. (Jeff Roberson/AP)
Several people view a wall of Smith & Wesson handguns during the National Rifle Association convention in 2007. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

America's solution to gun violence is more guns Add to ...

What could be worse news for publicly-traded gun makers than another mass shooting in the United States?

Surely, their shares have tumbled this week as the tragedy in Aurora, Co. has made Americans revisit their love affair with weaponry.

Stop. You’re thinking like a Canadian.

Sturm, Ruger & Co. is up more than 2 per cent in the last three trading days since Friday’s early-morning shooting at a Colorado movie theatre left 12 dead and scores more wounded.

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Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. is down 2 per cent, but is still outpacing the broader market, as the S&P 500 has lost almost 3 per cent since Thursday’s close.

At $9.49 (U.S.) Tuesday, Smith & Wesson is trading near its 52-week high of $10 and far above its low of $2.29. Sturm Ruger, at $43.62, is off a 52-week high of $58.42 but still well above the $22.71 low.

Why? One reason is that many Americans’ solution to gun violence is more guns. The Denver Post reported Tuesday that background checks for people wanting to buy guns in Colorado have jumped more than 41 per cent.

Between Friday and Sunday, the Post reported, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm.

The Post quoted Jake Meyers, an employee at Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo in the Denver suburb of Parker, as saying there was a lineup of 15 to 20 people outside his store before it opened Friday morning, hours after the shooting.

More broadly, gun and ammunition sales have been robust since Barack Obama’s successful candidacy for president out of fears the Democrat will toughen gun laws.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation says (in its news service called “bullet points”) that the number of background checks conducted in the U.S. increased 24.5 per cent this June over June, 2011. It was the 25th straight month of year-over-year increases.

Federal data shows there were 11.2 million background checks in 2007 and 16.5 million in 2011. There have been 8.9 million so far in 2012, through June. (The number of background checks does not correlate perfectly to guns sold because one buyer may have more than one background check.)

What has this meant for the shares of manufacturers, who are estimated to sell just a quarter of America's guns? (Private companies sell the rest.)

Smith & Wesson reported sales of $295.9-million and earnings per share of 31 cents in the year ended April 30, 2008, before Obama’s election.

For the year ended this April, sales were $412-million with earnings per share of 40 cents. The shares are up more than 300 per cent from the end of 2008.

Sturm Ruger reported sales of $181.5-million in calendar 2008, with earnings per share of 43 cents; in 2011, sales were $328.8-million and earnings per share was $2.09. The shares are up nearly 700 per cent since the end of 2008.

Both are priced like growth stocks, with Sturm Ruger at about 18 times trailing earnings and Smith & Wesson near 24. Investors believe, quite rightly, that there’s no end in sight to American gun culture.

 
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