Gun and ammunition sales are booming as firearm background checks surge, and the CEO of Vista Outdoor says millennials and women are leading the charge

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  • Gun and ammunition sales are skyrocketing as the US begins to reopen and pandemic restrictions ease.
  • In March, the FBI received more firearm background checks than any other month on record.
  • Vista Outdoor’s CEO said younger generations are helping drive a spike in ammunition sales.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Gun and ammunition sales are surging as the country begins to reopen from the pandemic.

In 2020, the FBI processed a record 39.7 million firearm background checks – the most of any year since the agency started recording the data. This year, data indicates there could be another record set, with firearm background checks up over 30% from this time last year.

Vista Outdoor, a company that manufactures ammunition and outdoor sports and recreation equipment, told Fox Business that it has seen heightened interest in firearms and ammunition in recent months.

While the pandemic drove people outdoors, and even as restrictions on indoor gatherings are easing, people continue to express interest in outdoor activities like hunting. In March, the FBI received about 4.7 million firearm background checks – more than ever recorded in a single month.

New demographics have begun to express interest in firearms, Vista Outdoor CEO, Chris Metz, said. Vista Outdoor added 8 million new people to its hunting and shooting categories in 2021 – most of which have been younger generations, as well as women and people of color.

Meltz attributes the interest to a shift toward outdoor activities, especially hunting, in the wake of the pandemic.

“We haven’t seen these trends before. More millennials, more younger-generation people, more people of color, women are embracing hunter and field to table movements, filling their freezers with fresh meat, embracing safety and self-resiliency,” Metz told Fox Business. “It has created this structural shift in who is entering the market and using the product, which is really exciting for us.”

Earlier this month, Vista Outdoor reported that sales increased 40 percent in the company’s fourth quarter ending March 31 compared to the same quarter last year.

Overall, the pandemic seems to have given new life to recreational hunting. The Washington Post reported earlier in the year that states known for wildlife hunting, including Michigan and Nevada, saw a 67% and 30% hike, respectively, in registrations for new hunting licenses in 2020 as compared to 2019. Of the new hunters, women and younger generations make up the fastest growing groups, the publication reported.

Hunting licenses and rifles are not the only types of firearms seeing an uptick in interest. In the past four months, nearly 16 million people have initiated firearm background checks.

Firearm background checks are not required to receive a hunting license, but they are required for any gun purchase. The background checks are not a direct representation of the number of guns sold. The data includes checks related to concealed carry permits and suppressor sales, in addition to gun sales. However, they are considered a key indicator of sales in the US, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

In January alone, the number of people looking to become first time gun owners more than doubled from the previous January, according to the FBI data.

Historically, gun sales rise during presidential election years because of fears related to possible new gun regulations. Gun sales skyrocketed after President Obama’s election in 2008.

Experts told Insider’s Kate Taylor that the rise in gun sales in 2020 was driven by three major events: the coronavirus pandemic, protests following the death of George Floyd, and the presidential election.

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Video shows NRA’s Wayne LaPierre shooting but failing to kill an elephant for NRA-sponsored TV show that never aired

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In this April 26, 2019, file photo, Nation Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaks at the association’s Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

  • A newly released video shows NRA head LaPierre shooting an endangered elephant on a 2013 hunting trip.
  • LaPierre repeatedly fails to kill the animal from close range; his guide eventually makes the kill.
  • LaPierre’s wife, Susan, kills another elephant with ease and is filmed cutting off the animal’s tail.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre has cultivated a careful image as the paragon of gun rights activism in America. But a nearly decade-old video obtained by The Trace and published in partnership with The New Yorker suggests LaPierre’s skill with a rifle may be lacking.

LaPierre and his wife, Susan, traveled to Botswana’s Okavango Delta in 2013, on a mission to boost the NRA’s reputation among hunters, a demographic crucial to the organization’s base. A crew from the NRA-sponsored TV series, “Under Wild Skies,” came along to capture the NRA chief executive’s big game hunting adventures in the African bush, according to The New Yorker.

But the program never aired due to concerns the footage could cause a public relations crisis, the outlet reported.

Now, eight years later, footage from the hunt has been published, displaying LaPierre’s inability to kill the largest land mammal on Earth from close range and highlighting his wife’s apparently superior marksmanship.

The nine-minute video begins with LaPierre walking through the bush, dressed for a safari and accompanied by multiple professional hunting guides as well as Tony Makris, a longtime public relations advisor to LaPierre who is also the host of “Under Wild Skies.”

One of the guides sees an elephant behind a tree. LaPierre readies himself to take a shot as the guide repeatedly tells him to wait. But LaPierre is wearing earplugs and misses the guide’s instructions. He shoots and the animal falls.

“Did we get him?” LaPierre says.

The guide says yes, but as the group moves closer to the fallen African bush elephant, a species declared endangered earlier this year, the guide repositions LaPierre within a few meters to take a final shot at the still-breathing animal.

Then begins a nearly two-minute failed endeavor by LaPierre to kill the motionless animal. LaPierre fires three shots, each time failing to hit his mark and each time being instructed by the guide on how to re-adjust.

“I’m not sure where you’re shooting,” the guide says to LaPierre.

He responds by saying, “Where are you telling me to shoot?”

Eventually, the guide instructs Makris to finish the animal instead. He shoots and kills the elephant with ease.

In the latter half of the footage, LaPierre’s wife, Susan, gets her shot at the same prize.

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An African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is feeding on the vegetation in the Jao concession, Wildlife, Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Susan and her guides approach two elephants in the bush and whisper about how to proceed. The guide instructs Susan to aim between the animal’s eyes. She cocks her rifle and shoots. The bullet goes dead center in the elephant’s head as it drops to the ground.

Another guide congratulates her on appearing to kill the elephant with a single bullet. With the help of a guide, she fires one more bullet into the animal to be sure.

Following the kill, Susan responds by hugging her guides. “You can see how old he is. And lots of wrinkles,” she says, examining the dead elephant.

With her guide’s help, Susan cuts off part of the elephant’s tail, a ritual hunters do to claim the kill in “olden days,” according to the guide.

She holds the bloody tail up for the camera, smiles, and says, “victory!”

The NRA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Even though the LaPierre’s hunting footage never aired, The New Yorker reported that records show the couple still obtained proof of their hunting exploits: Body parts from the two elephants were shipped to the US “in a hidden manner,” at Susan’s written request, according to the outlet.

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Montana governor given warning after trapping and killing a Yellowstone wolf

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Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., speaks during the 2017 Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington.

  • Montana’s governor was given a warning after he killed a Yellowstone wolf outside the park last month.
  • Greg Gianforte had not completed a state-mandated certification course before trapping the wolf.
  • A spokesperson for the governor said he immediately rectified the mistake and signed up for the course.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte was let off with a warning for defying a state regulation before trapping and killing a Yellowstone wolf near the national park in February.

Gianforte trapped an adult black wolf approximately ten miles north of Yellowstone’s boundary on the private ranch of Robert Smith, director of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group, who donated more than $10,000 to Gianforte’s 2017 congressional campaign, according to Boise State Public Radio.

Though wolves inside Yellowstone are protected from hunters, Montana law does allow for the trapping and hunting of wolves in other parts of the state, including those that wander out of the park’s boundaries.

But Gianforte harvested the wolf, known as “1155,” without having completed a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course, Boise State Public Radio reported.

“After learning he had not completed the wolf-trapping certification, Governor Gianforte immediately rectified the mistake and enrolled in the wolf-trapping certification course. The governor had all other proper licenses,” Gianforte’s spokesperson told The Hill.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks gave the governor a written warning and said Gianforte will be allowed to keep the wolf skull and hide after he enrolled in the three-hour online course scheduled for March 24, the outlet reported.

“Typically, we approach this sort of incident as an educational opportunity, particularly when the person in question is forthright in what happened and honest about the circumstances,” Greg Lemon, a spokesperson for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks told Boise Public Radio. “That was the case here with Gov. Gianforte.”

As governor, Gianforte is responsible for overseeing Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

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A Yellowstone wolf watches biologists after being tranquilized and fitted with a radio collar during wolf collaring operations in Yellowstone National Park. | Location: Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, United States.

Wolf “1155” was born in Yellowstone as part of the Wapiti Lake pack and had wandered north to find a mate, a park spokesperson told Boise Public Radio. Wildlife biologists were tracking the “dispersed male” through a radio collar, which allows scientists to note the movements and deaths of wolves that leave the park.

As of January 2020, there were at least 94 wolves in Yellowstone, according to National Park Services data. A park spokesman told Boise Public Radio this was the first Yellowstone-collared wolf to be killed by a hunter this year.

“People from all over the world come to Yellowstone specifically to see these wolves,” Jonathan Proctor, director of the Rockies and Plains program for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife told the outlet. “The fact that they can be killed so easily, right on the edge of the park in the state of Montana, for only a few dollars for a permit to trap a wolf – it makes no sense, either ecologically or economically.”

In recent months, Montana and other states in the West have seen fierce debate over the role trapping can play in managing increasing wolf populations nearly a decade after wolves lost Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies, Boise Public Radio reported.

This isn’t the first time Gianforte has found himself in trouble with the law. In 2017, the Republican governor pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after body-slamming a reporter for The Guardian.

Insider reached out to Gianforte’s office and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for comment.

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