When Do Demands on Customers Impact Customer Demand

A blog is a perfect place for tossing out a very specific question: how much regulation will it take to impact demand for the purchase and continued ownership of firearms?  Will there be a point when customers will say “never mind” and walk away, dropping out of the firearms marketplace?

The good news for manufacturers is that Second Amendment supporters equate to consumers who are passionate about firearms.  They collect, hunt, sport, compete, use, maintain, and accessorize.  Even while disputing a law, these consumers do what needs doing to make a purchase and sustain ownership – in some cases for generations.

Consider the situation then of consumers living in highly-regulated states and cities.  The type of firearm may be regulated, and that regulation may be enacted after the purchase.  The firearm itself may need to be registered as frequently as on an annual basis.  There are bound to be fees involved in both the registration and the renewals, and those fees are on top of the purchase price plus any applicable sales tax.  There is a background check.  There might be insurance and a gun safe.  And yet, talk to your average gun owner, and they are up-to-date on the law.

Economic theory tells us, however, that there is a limit to the number of barriers and tandem costs associated with the purchase of an item before it effects consumer demand.  Even judges have started to write this question into their decisions, although recent rulings upholding various statutes and regulations indicate the theory that there is still room to go before consumers stop purchasing or start surrendering guns.

This debate supposes that an economist could classify a gun on a spectrum of products and not, himself, come under fire.  In economic speak, goods tend to be classified as necessary or optional.  One could call healthcare “necessary” and tie soaring costs into the inability of the consumer of healthcare to turn down treatment that promises to be life-extending.  Compare that to the purchase of a magazine subscription, which is generally considered a recreational expenditure.

Unique to the firearm, however, is the question of “necessity.”  The gradations of opinion range from necessary to unnecessary, a distinction tightly wound to political ideology.  Very few products in the economic marketplace meet with such a dichotomy of opinion on the usefulness of the product.  It makes developing any kind of a rational answer to the question even more difficult than predicting the gasoline price point at which a consumer embarks on alternative forms of transportation or simply stays home. 

For now, at least, with products ranging from entry level to luxury level, demand for firearms remains high as consumers sort their way through the maze of government barriers to ownership and use.  Although one doesn’t talk about “consumer compliance,” it certainly seems the appropriate phrase to coin – at least until we hear from the economists.

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