The Sandy Hook Effect: Gun Sales Rise as Stocks Fall

Javier E. David | Special to
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As lawmakers across the U.S. debate the possibility of new gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, weapon sales in parts of the country appear to be on the rise.

Friday's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 people dead – including 20 children within the ages of six and seven – has sparked a national conversation about imposing stricter legislation on the nearly $32 billion firearms industry.

The ensuing debate has had a few noticeable side effects. Anecdotal evidence suggests that gun enthusiasts are moving quickly to purchase new weapons, spurred on by the prospect of tougher laws. Simultaneously, and for similar reasons, the shares of several gun manufacturers have plunged.

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A spike in gun sales across the country started with President Barack Obama's reelection. Observers note that may be associated with the traditionally contentious relationship the Democratic Party has with the gun rights lobby. (Read more: Gun Sales Surge: An Obama Bounce?) Some Second Amendment advocates fear the Connecticut tragedy will provide more impetus to efforts to restrict gun ownership.

But the National Rifle Association said on Tuesday it is "prepared to offer meaningful contributions" to help prevent future mass shootings.

"The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters — and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown," the organization said in a statement.

In places like Colorado, Texas, Ohio and Oregon, local reports have noted a surge in gun purchases occurring immediately after the Sandy Hook tragedy. (Read more: Why Gun Sales Often Rise After Mass Shootings.)

The Sandy Hook shooting has "created a national shortage" of firearms and ammunition, one Texas gun shop owner told CNBC, who asked not to be identified for fear of a backlash. "All of our suppliers are almost sold out of items across the board."

The person added that he expects gun sales in his establishment to see a jump of anywhere between 200 and 400 percent. "At a minimum we'll double our sales from last year," he added.

A representative for Colorado's Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) InstaCheck Unit told CNBC that firearms background check requests was in the throes of "record setting volume." The day following the Sandy Hook shooting the CBI received a one-day total of 4,154 requests — a new historical peak.

Although numbers for Monday weren't readily available, Susan Medina, a CBI spokesperson, said that the day's numbers of submitted background checks "continued to be elevated," creating a sizable backlog that the organization is struggling to keep pace with.

The CBI "is working extremely hard to clear the previous day's queue to then launching to the current day's checks," Medina told CNBC in an emailed statement.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – which oversees the impromptu investigations required for gun buyers – also saw similar volume to InstaCheck, the CBI stated.

According to NCIS data, almost 17 million firearms related background checks have been run this year as of Nov. 30.

Paradoxically, gun maker stocks have taken it on the chin since the news on Sandy Hook broke. According to analysts, investors appear to be reacting to the growing possibility that new gun laws will have a negative impact on their profitability -- even as gun sales soar.

Smith & Wesson's stock tumbled eight percent over the Friday to Monday period, and on Tuesday the stock careened an additional 10 percent lower. Sturm Ruger & Company's shares also plunged by nearly eight percent, after shedding about nine percent of its value since the shooting.

Both companies were hurt in part by news that private equity giant Cerberus Capital Management would immediately shed its stake in gun maker Freedom Group, citing the Connecticut tragedy.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama is scheduled to hold a press conference as part of an administration wide initiative to curb gun violence, the outgrowth of which may be new legislation. Obama is designating Vice President Joe Biden as his surrogate in the effort.