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A look at America's gun industry

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The second factor is politics. Sales spiked in anticipation of Barack Obama's election in 2008 and 2012, fueled by fears that new gun restrictions would follow.

Mr. Obama's presidency has been a boon for gunmakers, in fact. While he has enacted no new gun restrictions (though he is weighing them now), and has actually acted in support of expanded gun rights, industry analyst Jim Barrett called Obama "the best thing that ever happened to the firearms industry," in an Associated Press interview. According to an October analysis by AP, Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson, the two biggest gunmakers in the US, have seen their profits rise by 86 percent and 41 percent, respectively, since Obama took office.

Altogether, gunmakers manufactured about 5.5 million firearms in the US in 2010, a drop of less than 1 percent over 2009, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. That is on the heels of a 29 percent rise in production in 2009 (mostly pistols), however.

Of that 2010 production, some 242,000 firearms were exported, while an additional 3.25 million were imported from other countries.

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