Look Back/Look Ahead

Nov 1, 2021

By midweek, we should have some indication of just how deeply the Supreme Court’s willing to dive into New York state’s gun registration requirements. Saying the high court’s going to do something isn’t something I’d ordinarily try to predict, but the mere fact they’re taking a Second Amendment case under consideration after assiduously avoiding them for several years indicates it’s not a case if “if” it’s a matter of “how much”.

Before the confirmations of Associate Justices Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett, Chief Justice John Roberts has worked to keep the Second Amendment out of his court. During that time, however, various circuits have offered a number of convoluted opinions and rulings that have alternately frustrated or infuriated Justice Thomas. Now, with another pair of apparently like-minded justices on the bench, the CJ has found himself unable to avoid the issue.

In fact, the Second Amendment won’t be on trial this time. Instead, New York State will be. OK, not the entire state, but the gun rule that requires applicants for a concealed carry permit to show some special need to exercise what is a specifically enumerated right according to the United States Constitution.

The issue, then, isn’t the right to own firearms, that’s established and stipulated by both sides. For New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, it’s just how much jurisdiction New York has when it comes to restrict that right. As some legal experts have observed, the court essentially remind the government that it is designed to be a “servant of the people, not the master.”

If the Supreme Court goes that far, which is a possibility, laws in several other states could be invalidated. That’s because for almost a century, the New York law has been used as a basis for their own restrictions.

The NASGW brought some much needed personal interaction to the industry last week. And those Supreme Court arguments were prevalent in lots of conversations. To say the industry’s hopeful is probably an understatement. But the fact the court was willing to hear the case was reason enough for optimism.

But NASGW also gave at least a preliminary indication of what might lie ahead for the gun business in 2022. While news isn’t all positive when it comes to inventory or supply chain issues, indications are that while 2022 might be considered a “slowdown” -it would only qualify when compared to the boom that was 2021.

By any other standard, 2022 looks like it will be another solid year - if the industry can navigate through the supply chain issues plaguing manufacturers, distributors and retailers everywhere.

Talking with the various attendees, the number one concern of every manufacturer, distributor and wholesaler was the same: supply chain crunches.

The fact that the delivery system is struggling is no surprise to anyone. Downgrades in service from UPS, Fedex and commercial carriers have been happening for weeks. They simply lack the ability to keep up.

Before you blame your local grocer for not having some of your favorite items, consider the supply chain issues that will likely get worse before they get better.

Digging deeper, however, there are even more fundamental issues. The delivery issues aren’t just an issue for finished goods, they’re a primary reason finished goods can’t seem to get finished.

One smaller gun company executive explained the challenges they’re facing.

“We order raw materials to make our components. They arrive three days late due to shipping delays. That delays our manufacturing process, which in turn delays our shipping the machined parts to the company that does our protective plating,” she explained, “They get our parts, but they sit two more days because they’re waiting on the chemicals to arrive for the plating machines. Now our three day delay is five days -and it’s no one’s fault.”

But getting the parts plated simply starts the “delay chain” running in the other direction.

If , for example, the shipper takes three days rather than the pre-covid “normal” of one day, the assembly process to make finished guns is also delayed.

And lag time between order and delivery grows.

That’s not the end of the challenges.

Cardboard, specifically the kind mandated for shipping firearms or ammunition, has been in short supply. If the cardboard’s not available, box making is delayed.

Finished products can’t be shipped without the appropriate boxes..and the delays grow.

Today’s “global manufacturing” issues are why several manufacturers tell me they’re taking some processes back in-house.

Not because they want to, because they feel there’s no other way to get goods out faster.

Manufacturers also tell me they’re taking all sorts of interim steps to address supply chain issues, from stockpiling cardboard and raw materials to putting their own delivery trucks on the road.

As it was explained to me by one exasperated exec, “there’s no simple answer. And we’re pretty convinced the supply chain won’t get back to normal before late ’22 or early ’23-at best.”

With dozens of container ships sitting offshore filled with tens of thousands of shipping containers stranded aboard them, it’s no wonder stores nationwide are short on everything from strapping tape to holiday decorations. When the containers finally do get ashore, there’s still the problem of having enough drivers, trucks and container transports to get them to distributors already looking at growing space in their warehouses.

As one marketing director told me in Columbus, “Holiday gift-giving is going to be problematic this year- at best.”

We’ll keep you posted.

— Jim Shepherd