Orlando shooting creates big profits for gun makers

An AR-15 and friends, or "America's favorite rifle," as the NRA likes to call it.

An AR-15 and friends, or “America’s favorite rifle,” as the NRA likes to call it.

After the horrific mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 and wounded 53, at least one group came out ahead—U.S. gun manufacturers.

The day after the attack at the Pulse nightclub, multiple news organizations reported sharp rises in the price of stock in the gun industry even on a day when other stock prices fell. Shares in Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of handguns, rifles, and other firearms, closed nearly 7 percent higher at $22.88. Shares in Sturm, Ruger & Co., a leading maker of commercial sporting market firearms, did even better, rising 9 percent to close at $62.29.

Nice to see that someone profited, even if the rest of humanity didn’t.

Gun manufacturers weren’t the only companies seeing higher profits. As a CNN story says: “Ammunition maker Vista Outdoor rallied on Monday as well. Shares of Olin, a specialty chemicals company that also owns the Winchester gun brand, were up slightly too, as was the stock of sporting and hunting goods retailer Cabela’s.”

It’s a sad but well-established pattern to see gun sales soar after a mass shooting. The myth of the “good guy with a gun” has been so well-sold by the National Rifle Association and its surrogates that people line up at gun stores the day after a tragedy like Orlando. Buyers also react to any talk of gun safety laws by snapping up more weapons. According to a story from NBC News, some gun stores in Central Florida had triple their average business in the days after the Orlando shooting. All the while selling a weapon originally designed for war that takes only 38 minutes to purchase.

Another measure of gun sales is the spike in FBI background checks. According to the NBC News story:

FBI data tells a similar story. Although not a one-for-one match, requests for background checks are considered a reliable proxy for measuring firearm sales. In 2012, Connecticut’s monthly average of 18,932 shot up to 29,246 in December of that year, the month the Sandy Hook school shooting took place. In California, last year’s monthly average of 137,103 background checks nearly doubled in December to 252,946, following the San Bernardino shooting.

The numbers indicate that this year was already on pace to break the record for the most gun background checks. Last year, the FBI conducted a record 23 million background checks, the most since 1998, when the agency began conducting them under the current system.

The sales this time around are no different, and gun industry executives smell profit. According to a blog called The Intercept, executives already were telling shareholders to expect a bump in share prices because of the election. And this was before the Orlando shooting.

Sturm, Ruger & Co. Chief Executive Michael Fifer, speaking at his company’s annual meeting in May, noted that his company — the largest handgun manufacturer in the U.S. — saw a spike in demand that “was strongly correlated to the tragic terrorist activities in Paris and San Bernardino.” Sales eventually slowed down, but Fifer called that a “big opportunity for the distributors to step up and take on inventory” to be ready for election-related sales.

In February, on an investor conference call, Fifer had predicted that “we’ll see a step up of demand if a Democrat wins” the presidency. And if Democrats win control of the Senate, he added, gun sales will increase dramatically based on fears that a more liberal Supreme Court might restrict gun rights.

If President Obama were such a threat to gun ownership, you’d think he would have taken away at least some firearms by now or partially gutted the Second Amendment. But no, he insists on following the U.S. Constitution.

You might be thinking: “All this talk about gun stock prices doesn’t affect me. I don’t own any stock in gun manufacturing companies.” Are you sure? A gun stock might be hidden in a larger investment. As a story in Money magazine points out, making sure you don’t own any stock from one of the merchants of death is harder than you think.

Completely cutting ties with gun companies can be rather complicated for investors. While stock pickers can simply decide not to invest in gun companies, which also comprises Olin and Vista Outdoor, life is a bit more thorny for holders of mutual and exchange-traded funds in tax-advantaged accounts like a 401(k) or an IRA.

One solution the story suggests is to use the site Goodbye Gun Stocks. Investors can check to see if their mutual funds have shares from any company that profits from gun sales. Besides the gun makers, that includes retailers such as Walmart, the largest seller of guns and ammunition in the country. At least Walmart no longer sells AR-15-type assault rifles, having given up those sales last summer because of “lower consumer demand for such military-style rifles, not gun politics,” according to a story in The New York Times.

It turns out that Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, didn’t use an AR-15 after all. Instead, his weapons of choice were a Sigsauer MCX assault rifle, which is just as deadly, and a Glock 17 handgun. Another .38-caliber weapon was found in his vehicle.

But not to worry. If your heart is set on an AR-15, the kind used in other mass shootings, don’t fret—gun makers have you covered. According to a story in the New York Daily News:

Companies that make AR-15-style rifles — the same style of weapon used in the December 2015 San Bernardino shooting, the December 2012 Newtown, Conn., massacre, and the July 2012 shooting at an Aurora, Colo. movie theater — include Colt, Bushmaster ArmaLite, Sturm, Ruger & Co., and Smith & Wesson. Of them, only Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson are publicly traded in the U.S.

Too busy to shop? You can always buy an AR-15 online. The website Grabagun.com (I am not making that up) has been doing a booming business since the Orlando shooting for the weapon it calls “America’s rifle.” As it warns its potential customers on the site: “We are experiencing large call volumes. Emails will be answered within 1 business day.”

Nothing less than the blog of the National Rifle Association proclaims that the AR-15 is “America’s Most Popular Rifle.” The NRA claim is that the weapon is not fully automatic (true; it is not a machine-gun-type of weapon in which the shooter must only hold down the trigger for rapid fire). Instead, “you must pull and release the trigger after each shot.”

It is customizable, adaptable, reliable, and accurate that can be used in sport shooting, hunting, and self-defense situations. Civilians can also modify and personalize their AR-15 from carbine-length, stocks, optics, barrels, etc. The AR-15’s ability to be modified to your own personal taste is one of the things that makes it so unique.

What follows on the blog is a serious of photos of “personalization” options, including decorating the entire weapon with POW-MIA decals. There are “So, SO, SOOOO many accessories,” such as silencers. “May the Pew Pew be with you” is the blog’s final word.

In the comments section underneath, several gun owners argue that such weapons are not needed, although there were predictable disagreements and arguments back and forth. This was from a Texas gun owner who says he has been shooting since he was a boy.

I cannot fathom why we need assault rifles in our nation. This site says an assault rifle is just a rifle that one can shoot basically as fast as one can pull the trigger. I’ve owned a 22 semi-auto, a 270 and a Marlin 30-30. If a person were to have tried to engage in a killing spree with any of the three guns above, there is no way 49 people would have been killed. The AR -15 along with a 30-, 40-, or 50-round magazine can and is designed to kill people in mass. These assault rifles must be banned in this country. Can’t we just agree that one doesn’t need an assault rifle to hunt or protect ones home?

This gun owner isn’t the only one. Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson has split with many colleagues who continue to drink the NRA Kool-Aid to come out for a ban on assault weapons, according to a report in Raw Story:

Carlson pointed out that a recent Quinnipiac poll found that 58 percent of Americans supported an assault weapons ban.

“Do we need AR-15s to hunt and kill deer? Do we need them to protect our families?” she asked. “I’m in favor of people being able to carry. I think some of these mass shooting would have been less deadly if that were the case.”

 “But I’m also with the majority today, taking a stand,” Carlson said of the assault weapons ban. “Can’t we hold true the sanctity of the Second Amendment while still having common sense?”

Even more shocking: Carlson has now been joined in the call to ban assault weapons by Bill O’Reilly.

I am not a gun owner, nor do I wish to become one. I am not against the reasonable interpretation of the Second Amendment, nor am I against hunting—I’m not a vegetarian, so others kill the meat I eat. I have hunters in my extended family, and I have eaten venison at their tables, even if it was killed with a bow and arrow.

But when presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Gretchen Carlson, and Bill O’Reilly agree that assault weapons should be banned, along with 58 percent of the American people, I think we might be on to something.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on June 19, 2016.

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