Gun companies are gathering for their annual conference and trade show in Las Vegas at a pivotal moment for the industry amid slumping sales, a public agitating for restrictions on access to firearms and escalating tensions over gun control efforts, the Associated Press reports. The National Shooting Sports Foundation event takes place three miles from the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. An estimated 60,000 people are expected, navigating a vast expanse of aisles filled with firearms, accessories and industry-related apparel. Gun sales taper off during Republican administrations because gun owners are not so compelled to stockpile weapons out of fear that lawmakers will impose restrictions on firearms. The past three years have been particularly volatile, fueled in part by the Las Vegas shooting and other high-profile mass killings that have driven efforts to restrict access to guns or to ban certain firearms and products.
The most notable action has occurred at the state level in places such as Virginia, where Democrats took control of the statehouse in last year’s elections. They vow to pass a slate of gun control measures, prompting pro-Second Amendment activists to plan a rally Monday at the Capitol. Virginia is being closely watched by the industry to see how it might portend for the future of gun politics. Sagging gun sales have afflicted almost every corner of the industry, most notably iconic gun manufacturers such as Ruger, Remington and Colt. The pushback from the public, lawmakers and the retail sector has been most intense against AR-style guns that have been used in recent mass killings, including Las Vegas, the Orlando nightclub massacre and the school shooting in Parkland, Fl. That has placed gun manufacturers in a difficult position because the popularity of those weapons has fueled their profits.