Speaking to a shareholder meeting in September, James Debney, the CEO of of American Outdoor, expressed excitement about the "change in the demographic" of those buying the company's gun. "Many more younger people from urban areas versus older people from rural areas, let's say, are showing a strong interest in the shooting sports," Debney said.
Debney credits "savvy marketing" for American Outdoor's success in luring first-time buyers, noting that young consumers have a strong interest in self defense and going to firing ranges that are increasingly opening in urban areas. "Younger people," Debney said, describing the demographics of new customers, "millennials coming through strongly. And then, also, many more women showing an interest in the shooting sports."
At the Bank of America Leveraged Finance Conference in November, the CFO of one of the largest companies involved in gun accessories and ammunition was explicit about the video-game appeal to young gun enthusiasts. "It has become a recreational shooting market, partly driven by the Xbox generation coming of age," said Stephen Nolan, of Vista Outdoor. "And two trends which bode very well to the market long term: significant influx of younger shooters and significant influx of female shooters into the market." Younger shooters, he explained, look to buy paper targets of zombies or vampires, and are more interested in buying high volumes of ammunition.
THE NRA, WHICH is funded by gun manufacturers, has long maintained youth outreach programs. The group sponsors high school gun clubs around the country, including one with the JROTC program attended by Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter. The group sponsors a number of programs for high school-level shooters, including the NRA's Youth Education Summit, which has events all around the country for young gun enthusiasts.
There are indications that the gun industry is making inroads. In a recent Marist poll, a majority of all age groups supported stricter gun rules. But people between 18 and 39 years old, the youngest grouping surveyed, favored stricter gun rules by a smaller percentage -- 64 percent, versus a national average of 71 percent -- than the other age groups.