The gun industry has high hopes for 2017 even though stocks in gun companies took a hit last week when an analyst predicted a drop in sales in the new year.
Wunderlich Securities analyst Rommel Dionisio predicted gun sales are likely to slow in 2017 after "unusually high growth" in 2016. That caused the share prices of Smith and Wesson and Sturm Ruger to drop for a bit on Tuesday before recovering.
More than 24.7 million people are estimated to have bought guns in 2016 through November, according to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) firearm background check numbers, the generally accepted measurement of new gun purchases.
That's about 1.5 million people more than bought firearms in 2015, and some speculated that the rise in gun sales was caused by the prospect of Democrat Hillary Clinton winning the White House. But even after President-elect Trump won the election, gun sales jumped in November with more than 2.5 million background checks processed, according to NICS.
Mike Bazinet, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said December's numbers are expected to be healthy as well, although they won't be available until early January. He said his group, the firearm industry's trade association, is optimistic next year will bring strong sales as well.
"We feel quite strongly that the future of the industry is quite bright, and we'll have to see how the exact numbers play out, but the underlying trends have been quite strong," he said.
The National Rifle Association expressed similar sentiments after the NCIS showed that more than 200,000 more people applied for background checks in November than in October, most coming after the election.
"The so-called experts were wrong in their prediction that a Trump victory would decrease firearm sales," the group said. "The facts demonstrate once again how badly they underestimated gun owners."
Gun ownership often isn't based on political emotion, Bazinet said.
Bazinet said the growing popularity of shooting sports, going to the firing range as a social event and people wanting to exercise their Second Amendment rights are usually the reasons why people will buy their first gun.
He said buying one gun will often lead to buying more, so there's reason to believe the market for gun sales isn't going to suddenly dry up following Trump's victory.
He added that national concerns are usually secondary to local ones for a first-time gun buyer deciding to purchase a firearm.
"Our retailers tell us the strongest factor … is the local reporting of criminal activity," he said.
"Those are big motivators for people, and they may be individuals who have thought about buying a firearm for years or months and then they see that activity and they decide to go out and buy a firearm," Bazinet added.
In his analysis, Dionisio argued the main reason why sales of firearms increased in 2016 were terrorist attacks in major cities around the country.
But motivating incidents such as terrorist attacks are unpredictable indicators of potential sales. Dionisio said the concern over those attacks may have convinced people to buy guns earlier than they planned to, pulling gun sales from 2017 into 2016.
"This past year, the firearms market experienced unusual demand spikes following certain terrorist incidents," Dionisio said, according to CNBC. "Thus, not only does the industry face difficult [year-over-year] comparisons, beginning in December, but also may have seen pull forward of consumer demand from 2017 into 2016."
Bazinet recognized that it's possible gun sales will slow, if only because the amount of guns purchased in 2016 was a record high. But he said the industry is on firmer footing than in past years so sales likely would drop to a still profitable level.
A slowdown wouldn't necessarily be bad for the industry, he said.
"It makes it possible for manufacturers to regularize production," he said.