After a Supreme Court decision affirming the right to bear arms was handed down in June, the owners of Midwest Sporting Goods, just outside of Chicago, started noticed something any retailer would find encouraging – an increasing number of customers.
With Chicago's 28-year ban on handgun ownership rendered unconstitutional, more people were coming into Midwest, in Lyons, Illinois, to exercise their Second Amendment rights, according to Noel, the store's owner. He asked that his last name not be published.
"It's not like sales suddenly went through the roof," he said. "There are still restrictions and waiting periods. But we are anticipating a major increase in sales going forward. It's not going to happen overnight, but it's going to happen."
Others in the industry agree that sales of firearms, particularly pistols and revolvers, could explode.
"Over the long term, as restrictions fall by the wayside, you will see gun sales increase," said Lawrence Keane, general counsel for the Newton, Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, a lobbying group representing the nation's 55,000 licensed firearms dealers.
The legal reverberations of the Supreme Court Case, McDonald v. City of Chicago, likely will be felt across the country for years to come, so gun sellers shouldn't be overly fired up just yet.
Violence-plagued Chicago's ban on handguns and automatic weapons was unique in its strictness -- only the District of Columbia had ever attempted to legislate an outright ban on handguns, and that was overturned by the Supreme Court in June 2008. But many states, such as New York, have extremely strict permit laws pertaining to purchasing and carrying firearms.
Two states, Illinois and Wisconsin, prohibit citizens outright from carrying concealed handguns. Eight states, including California and New York, have restrictive carry-permit laws, even for buyers who pass criminal background checks.
Buttressed by the recent legal victory, the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights advocates have vowed to fight firearms restrictions.
"This is not the end of the discussion, it's just the beginning," the NSSF's Keane said.
Analysts who follow gun manufacturing in the U.S., an industry in large part driven by sales to law enforcement agencies, view Smith & Wesson, makers of the popular semiautomatic M&P pistol, as among the chief beneficiaries of the Supreme Court ruling.
"Clearly, [the Supreme Court decision] is going to lead to a wave of suits challenging restrictive state and local gun purchase laws, with the net result being very positive for gun manufacturers, particularly Smith & Wesson," said Rommel Dionisio, a consumer products analyst for Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
Shares of Smith & Wesson Holding Company, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, popped after the ruling came down, jumping from around $4.10 to $4.30. But the stock has since fallen under $4 following revelations that the company is being investigated by the Department of Justice for possible violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits bribing foreign officials.
Still, Smith & Wesson has forecast higher revenues for its fiscal year 2011, which is about to begin. It is unclear whether the recent high court ruling was factored into that projection. Repeated calls to the company went unreturned.