Price Gouging on Guns?

Michael Giberson

Newly showing up in the “price gouging” news searches: claims of price gouging on guns. From a news report on the Atlanta Gun Show:

“This gun show hasn’t seen this amount of people come through the door in 10 years. It’s very busy,” said [vendor Monique] Migneault.

And the number of people isn’t the only thing that increased.

“Stuff’s way up on prices. Any kind of assault rifle, they’re up there. It’s bad,” said [shopper Brandon] Jessup.

[Another shopper, Michael] Roberts noticed the same thing.

“I bought an AK-47 last year for $600 and this year it’s close to $1,200. The same exact gun,” said Roberts.

Jessup called it price gouging, but vendors said it’s not.

“We can’t get these guns for the same price we did six months ago, or even last week for that matter. They’ve actually gone up since last Wednesday, so we have to pass that on to customers, so as a business we can stay afloat and maintain our status quo,” said Migneault.

And from another gun show in North Carolina:

Organizer Joel Koehler, [said] “People keep coming and coming and coming” …

He added the only cancellations he had were vendors who were sold out and didn’t have inventory. …

Gun dealer Dean Barr said his business is booming.

“We sold in one month what we normally sell in a year. December was a record month in gun sales all time,” said Barr.

Barr said even thought prices have doubled for the most popular firearms, he is protecting his livelihood, not capitalizing on tragedy.

“People look at dealers or distributors and think they are price gouging, remember this happened before the Christmas shutdown. Nobody has been making guns for two or three weeks,” added Barr.

Price gouging also mentioned in news stories about gun shows in Oklahoma City and Forth Worth, and in gun owners online forums, and industry sites. Prices are up at Michigan gun shows too.

In my Regulation magazine article on price gouging I said price gouging claims require three factors: a price judged unfairly high, an emergency or difficult situation, and a product or service useful in responding to the emergency. According to these reports, prices for guns and high-capacity magazines are reportedly double that of a year ago. The emergency is a bit more abstract, but arises from the concern that changes in law may ban certain popular types of guns and related equipment. The easiest way to beat the possible new restrictions is to stock up now, making guns and magazines goods that are useful in responding to the emergency.

Now, I wonder if any of these sharp price increases happened during declared states of emergency in states with anti-price gouging laws, or in states with anti-price gouging laws not requiring a declaration of emergency?

2 thoughts on “Price Gouging on Guns?

  1. I know a gun store that doesn’t gouge. Their prices have gone up. Mostly, this is ammunition and that has been a problem for several years. Costs of raw materials for ammo are up and the military is getting a lot of ammo.

    When you have a store that has been around for decades and plans on being around for decades more they aren’t going to gouge customers.

    Gun shows are a spot market. Buyer beware.

  2. Supply, demand.

    Demand is up. Supply can’t rise to match (since nobody has significant excess capacity or backstock, since both are money-losers 99% of the time).

    Thus prices rise.

    People want to call it gouging because they can’t (or won’t) grasp that there’s no “natural price” of an AR-15 (or AK pattern rifle, or PMAG), just one determined by the intersection of supply and demand curves.

    (Times like this are an excellent time to sell of arms you no longer want, or spare magazines, as long as you’re confident – as one should be – that no Draconian Gun Control Regime is coming.

    And possibly even if one is, if one believed it was Really Draconian and confiscatory…)

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