Must Be an Election Year: Bullets Are Flying Off the Shelves

Another election is approaching and it's no coincidence that 2012 is shaping up to be a huge year for sales of bullets and guns. President Obama is even being referred to as "salesman of the year."

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When Barack Obama was elected president and the Democrats regained control of Congress four years ago, a boom time for gun sales soon followed. A record number of background checks were conducted during the election month of November 2008, and retailers reported sharp increases in firearm sales (up 39% in early 2009). The spikes came at least partly the result of fears that new government leadership would soon make it more difficult to buy guns, via tougher gun control legislation. Another election is approaching and it’s no coincidence that 2012 is shaping up to be a huge year for sales of bullets and guns. President Obama is even being referred to as “salesman of the year” among gun industry insiders. He may have competition for that title, though, in the form of … zombies?

Few firms welcome the reelection of Barack Obama quite as much, and for quite as odd a reason, as Olin Corp., a company based in Clayton, Missouri, that manufacturers bullets for Winchester rifles and handguns. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Olin’s ammunition sales have risen strongly during the first quarter of 2012, increasing 8% overall and 13% among civilians. During an April conference call with analysts, Olin’s CEO said the increase in sales “may be related to the election.”

The comments of analysts suggest that the forthcoming election have a more definite impact on rising sales. Bloomberg quoted the report on Olin by Susquehanna Financial Group’s Don Carson, which states:

“Obama is reportedly referred to as ‘salesman of the year’ in the firearms and ammunition industry as gun-rights supporters stock up on supplies ahead of a possible more restrictive environment.”

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Demand for firearms and ammunition is expected to increase as the 2012 election grows nearer, even as the prices set by Olin and other weapons manufacturers are increasing.

Gun sales in cities such as Detroit have been brisk this year, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. One gun shop owner in the metro Detroit area, named Ray (no joke) Jihad (not sure if the name’s been good or bad for business since 2001) says that he while he normally sells 10 guns per day, he’s been averaging 30 firearm sales daily in 2012. Background checks required for immediate firearm transactions have reported increased for 22 months in a row.

Sales of certain semiautomatic assault rifles have been especially strong in the months leading up to the 2012 election, out of fears that a lame-duck Obama would have little political reason holding him back from banning the weapons.

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Perhaps, though, there’s another force other than President Obama causing the increase in firearm sales. We speak, of course, of zombies.

The recent rise in fear/fascination of a zombie apocalypse, buoyed on by high-profile instances of cannibalism, has manifest itself in several parts of the economy, including some clever (mostly ironic) marketing.

Weapons makers have also joined the zombie crazy: Nebraska’s Hornady Manufacturing Co. introduced Z-MAX bullets (the Z is for “zombie,” and they’re ideal when preparing for “Zombiegeddon”), while Guns and Ammo roundup up a full roster of zombie-related weapon products displayed at a convention earlier this year.

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“The whole zombie niche has taken off and the (gun) market has responded,” Lawrence Keane, of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told Crain’s. “It’s become a big thing in which people have these shooting competitions (to shoot zombie targets).”

Just imagine if a zombie Barack Obama was on the loose. That’d really make gun sales soar.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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