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Businesses prepare for civil unrest following election

Mauro Guillen, Wharton Professor, and author of "2030," joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to break what reactions to expect across the country, as Americans await election results.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to take a look over at a gun stocks. They have been performing well. Sturm and Ruger right now up 3.5%, Smith & Weston up roughly 2%, with Olin up 3.5%. As you can see on your screen, every one of those except for vista are in the green today and up on this day. Well, gun sales in October actually surged 65% from the same month last year. And many, of course, are now preparing for election-based violence and unrest. We're joined now by Mauro Guillen, Wharton professor and author of "2030-- How Today's Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything." Professor, thank you so much for joining us today.

I just listed some stats on those gun sales in just the last month alone, surging 65%. Gun sales throughout this pandemic have been on the rise. What do you think that's going to tell us-- what is that telling us, do you think, about what is coming in the next days, perhaps even weeks, as many folks are expecting that there's going to be a delay in election results or some kind of contested election?

MAURO GUILLEN: Well, you put your finger on precisely what the issue, which is that I don't think we're going to see major episodes of violence or vandalism or looting unless the election is contested, and we don't have a clear winner for days or even weeks to come. I think that's really the key. And of course, as you know, everything depends on what happens with the early reporting states. Many of them will be in the sunbelt, so everywhere from Georgia to Florida all the way West to Arizona. So depending on what happens in the early hours of the night, then we're going to, I think, be in a position to tell whether those gun sales, whether, you know, any unrest in the streets, whether any vandalism or looting may become more likely in the next few days.

KRISTIN MYERS: I'm wondering if you think that any kind of election turmoil is more likely to happen if one side wins over the other, meaning if President Trump does win-- he is not largely expected to win today, at least according to the polls-- but if he does win, do you think that supporters of Joe Biden are going to go out and start vandalizing? Or do you think it's perhaps more likely that some President Trump supporters who might get upset if Joe Biden becomes victorious? Even if we do have an outright election result today, do you not at all see any kind of opportunity or chance that there might be some kind of election unrest?

MAURO GUILLEN: Well, let me consider both scenarios. So one is, let's say, it's clear that Biden has won, but Trump doesn't concede, I think what we're going to see is quite a bit of mobilization in the streets. There might not be demonstrations, but I don't see a reason why they should be violent, at least in principle, right?

Now the other possibility is that Trump wins, but, you know, it's not clear if we were to count all of the votes, right? So he wins-- he appears to be winning tonight, he declares victory, and that is not clear that when we count the mail-in ballots that that result will hold. Then in that case, I think if things go on for days or weeks and that Trump doesn't seem to be supported by the results, I think we may see not only lawyers running around trying to stop the counting of the votes, we may also see some mobilization on the part of some of the most extreme supporters of the president.

KRISTIN MYERS: Professor, I do want to ask you, however, about-- it's almost like a conspiracy theory, but I need to bring it up, because I feel like I have repeatedly heard folks talking about a quote, unquote, almost like a "war" they're describing-- some of the turmoil that they might be hearing or seeing in the streets after-- after the election. Of course, it's worrying to many to see that so many folks are stocking up on guns and ammunition. I know that we talk a lot about election unrest, meaning vandalizing stores, perhaps, or looting. But do you at all think that we might see it turn far more violent than that? Meaning when folks are saying, hey, we have to prepare for a quote, "war," you know, going forward, I mean, how likely is that to happen? Are those folks far off base?

MAURO GUILLEN: I don't think that's very likely in a country such as the United States, where, thank god, I mean, we have a transparent you know political landscape in the sense that we have news outlets and all sorts of broadcasting services, including Yahoo, right, that essentially brings the news to people in real time. So I think that it's very difficult. I think that some of those scenes that we've all seen on TV from other countries in the world, where militias take to the streets, and somehow, you know, the election outcome gets changed and so on and so forth, I don't think that's likely here in the United States. But it is worrisome.

And let me say something also about conspiracy theories. You know, they're abound and, of course, social media have made them so easy to diffuse around the country and around the world. But you see, conspiracy theories at the end of the day, only the people who are conspiring really believe them, right? And nobody else really pays that much attention to them. Having said that, they can help mobilize people, as you were saying, out of fear, that something may happen.

So it's not that they believe the conspiracies. But they do feel there is something going on. And it is that mobilization potential, which could in the end, bring about some clashes, some violence. But again, I do believe that here in this country it may be more of a local nature rather than widespread problems in terms of violence all throughout the United States. So I'm a little bit optimistic about what may happen on the violence front. But if you ask me about the stores and the vandalism and the looting, that could happen, and I'm very happy to see some business taking action, because the first thing they should do is protect their employees and their customers.