The grim predictability of stock-market reactions to U.S. mass shootings - where before a final tally of casualties can be reached, shares of gun makers rise - continued Monday in the wake of a Las Vegas attack that killed at least 58 and wounded 515. Historically, gun stocks have experienced a bump after a mass shooting for reasons both political and emotional. Gun sales typically rise over concerns that a deadly event could lead to more stringent gun-control legislation. An additional driver of sales, and by extension shares, is the rush by some consumers to purchase guns to defend against future attacks.
Authorities said that Stephen Craig Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort, high above a crowd attending the nearby Route 91 Harvest Festival concert. The shooter, originally reported to have been killed by officers, may have shot himself before they entered his hotel room, police said. As local hospitals worked to treat the injured, the south end of the iconic Las Vegas Strip was shut down. The motives of the 64-year-old white gunman remain unknown, police said.
As news of the attack spread this morning, firearm-related stocks began to rise. Olin Corp., the maker of Winchester ammunition, rose almost 6 percent by midday New York time. American Outdoor Brands Corp., formerly Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., was up about 4 percent and Sturm Ruger & Co. rose 4 percent. Following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., last summer, which left dozens dead, Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson saw stock prices increase. The same phenomenon occurred after the San Bernardino, Calif. shooting in late 2015, which left 14 dead.
In the past, gun rights supporters and organizations such as the National Rifle Association have warned of future regulatory efforts Democratic administrations may try to impose using a mass shooting as justification. This pattern continued throughout the Obama administration, even when the Democratic Party lost control of the House and Senate. Things could turn out differently, however, now that Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress.
Gun makers have made it clear they see a connection between the partisan politics, high-profile shootings, and their business. "Concerns about presidential, congressional, and state elections and legislature and policy shifts resulting from those elections can affect the demand for our products. In addition, speculation surrounding increased gun control at the federal, state, and local level and heightened fears of terrorism and crime can affect consumer demand," American Outdoor Brands wrote in its annual report this year, citing the "impact of news events, including terrorism" on gun buying habits.
Political change can have an adverse effect on gun stocks, too. After the 2016 election of Donald Trump, who has espoused less-strict gun control policies than those of his Democratic predecessor, gun stocks sank. American Outdoor Brands has seen a double digit stock decline in the months since the presidential election.