Gun stocks decline after Connecticut tragedy

Lawmakers are having new discussions about gun control. Can the US strike a balance between the rights of gun owners and the wishes of people favoring more restrictions?

By Jonathan Berr Dec 17, 2012 7:10PM
Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Caption: A customer shops for a pistol at Freddie Bear Sports sporting goods store. December, 2012Shares of two of the largest gun makers, Smith & Wesson (SWHC) and Sturm Ruger (RGR), continued falling Monday amid new interest in gun control laws following last week's horrifying shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, among others, are showing support for new gun restrictions. But whether those policies will ever see the light of day is another question. The National Rifle Association remains a formidable political force, as does the lesser-known National Shooting Sports Federation, which happens to be based in Newtown, Conn.

Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives aren't keen on the idea of enacting new gun control legislation. But the tragic circumstances of the shootings Friday at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which a 20-year-old gunman opened fire and killed 20 children and six educators, may change the debate about gun violence.

As Wedbush analyst Rommel Dionisio said in an interview with Bloomberg News, this rampage was unique because of "the number of children (involved), and the fact that it was very young children." Shares of Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger have soared this year because many gun owners feared that President Obama would crack down on gun ownership in his second term. Those fears may come to pass.

But what gets lost among the discussion about guns about is a sense of economic reality. For one thing, the rates of gun ownership have been on a decline for decades. Data cited by Think Progress shows that in 1977, 54% of adults lived in a household with a gun. By 2010, that figure had shrunk to 32%. Smaller gun makers have been struggling financially for years. Freedom Group, a company backed by Cerberus Capital Management that owns such firearms brands as Remington and Bushmaster, shelved plans for an initial public offering last year. Freedom Group, though, is optimistic about its prospects. 

"We believe the continued economic uncertainty and the outcome of the 2012 presidential election is likely to continue to spur both firearms and ammunition sales," the company said in a recent SEC filing. "We believe the industry is also experiencing trends toward increased recreational and shooting sports and home defense."

The tough challenge for policy makers is figuring out which guns need to be controlled. Take assault weapons. To non-gun owners, the name conjures up images of fully-automatic machine guns spraying a small area with a huge number of bullets like the M-4, the rifle favored by the U.S. military. According to the Shooting Sports Federation, the differences between assault weapons and otherwise legal firearms are cosmetic, such as the type of stock used on the weapon. Critics have long argued that these guns can easily be converted to automatic ones and pack more firepower than a user would need for hunting or target practice.

The U.S. has the dubious distinction of having more guns than people and by far the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy has said that his state has one of the toughest gun control laws in the country. Though some argue that the tragedy could have been averted if some of the teachers were armed, that seems like wishful thinking.  People need to be leery of easy answers to complicated questions. 

For now, the gun industry is keeping a low profile. The NRA has reportedly taken down its Facebook page and officials I contacted didn't return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Let's hope that people will point to tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School as a watershed moment where the U.S. was able to strike a balance between the rights of law-abiding gun owners with those of most Americans who choose not to exercise their right to bear arms. I hope my wish isn't too far fetched.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.


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83Comments
Dec 18, 2012 12:45AM
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 I could compile a full page list of all the facts and stats and reasons and logic why gun control won't stop these kinds of evil godless tragedies,,,and the ban of semi automatic weapons won't stop this evil in any way either. We banned Semi automatic  assault look a likes rifles before and those bans were allowed to expire because they were ineffective in stopping shootings, or mass shootings and even the amount of times the victims were shot...the ban was a failure...this is a documented fact.  To even slow down this kind of evil we need to look deeper to understand what is the real reasons for these godless tragedies.  
Dec 18, 2012 12:37AM
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   For me the verdict is still out.  I don't think stricter laws would hurt a thing when a person wants to purchase a gun.  I own 4 pistols, a shotgun, and a 30-30.  The suit everything I need a gun for.  However I  really see no need for assult weapons being owned by the average citizen.  I do know if all the people who commented headstrong in non-cooperative and non productive ways on this blog had to go to their local fire station to identify the body of their 6 year old, maybe we could then have rational discussions and come up with a plan that was suitable to all involved.
Dec 17, 2012 10:57PM
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how do you stop evil ?this animal murdered his mom then 28 other people!then the gun control ghouls never wanting to waste a tragety to pass thier agenda.they do not care about our safety ,only thier safety.while obama spends our country into oblivian his ghouls use this terrible incident to pass thier agenda to disarm us.
Dec 17, 2012 10:19PM
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Mr Berr -

 

You said it yourself, be careful of the simple answer.  Passing a law to restrict or forbid gun ownership is a simple answer.  it does not address the underlying problem of the mental health of the individual doing the killing.  If he couldn't get a gun, how about a car or a knife or a sword or any other weapon that can create the kind of carnage that was inflicted.  What if he decided to use Fertilizer like Timothy McVey?  How many would have died then? 


Please do not get me wrong, my heart goes out to all the families that lost a loved one way too early.  It is a tragedy of a great magnitude.  Should we do something to try and prevent it?  The answer is yes.  But, let's make sure it is a real solution and not a knee jerk reaction that reduces or removes the rights of others and offers no real solution.  The solution must be framed to protect all of our rights.

Dec 17, 2012 10:07PM
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Why should we be wary of an easy answer? It is the ONLY answer....teachers and other school personnel need to be armed. It is the only way to stop a crazy...there was a similar incident in Japan last week where the assailant had a knife. The weapon isn't the problem, it's the crazy holding the weapon...A nut job can use a chair to bash in heads, his boots to stomp on faces. The best answer IS the easy one...arm our teachers.
Dec 17, 2012 9:40PM
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Good. Go broke and stop making them.
Dec 17, 2012 9:36PM
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Sturm Ruger has had a 600% increase in price in the past 5 years.  I guess they can handle a little loss.  I will be happy when their stock falls 80%.
Dec 17, 2012 9:20PM
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Those who advocate gun control and labor under the false conception that this would prevent columbine and now the sandy hook incident seem to forget or perhaps ignore just how lucky we are that those who committed these acts of utter cowardice were stupid unintelligent individuals
What do you think the carnage would have been if these mental morons would have used explosives or poison gas or heaven forbid worked for the DOJ and had access to real weapons.
It just amazes me  that no one wants to accept the fact that these lives could have all been saved If even one teacher had a gun and the balls to use it .   
Dec 17, 2012 8:57PM
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An event which has been ignored by the Media that occured in Orlando, Florida MINUTES after the Conn school shooting was broadcast on the National News. A would-be copycat killer grabbed a rifle and headed for the nearest elementary school to his home. (Presumably to try and out-do the carnage in Conn). This man arrived at the school and approached the entrance of the school bearing his rifle in hand. A conceal carry citizen luckily spotted this man's approach to the school with the weapon and engaged the would-be assailant. Gunfire was exchanged and the assailant was killed. He NEVER made it past the front door of the school. Why have we not seen a single article on this? Not one clip on the evening news. Nothing. I wouldn't even of known about it had not my cousin (who lives in Orlando) told people about it on her facebook page. I will tell you why no one has seen anything on it .... because the Powers-That-Be who want the American citizens disarmed (and who the Liberals serve either wittingly or unwittingly) cannot have the Facts clouding the push for political gain. They are using this tragedy to push their agenda. Anyone who can actually think for themselves can figure out the truth behind an armed citizens survival chances vs an Unarmed citizens survival chances when confronted by an armed criminal. How many times have the Liberals spewed this one "Oh great, just what we need, a shootout at an elementary school (in ref to teachers having access to a gun might have saved lives in Conn). **NEWSFLASH** you liberal geniuses .... there already WAS a shootout in that school in Connecticut but only one side was shooting ... the criminal. This happened in a state that has some of the strictest Gun Control Laws on the books. Why? Duh ... because Gun Bans only disarm the honest good citizen that's why. Criminals will still have their assault rifles with their high capacity magazines and their selection of handguns long after a govt bans them (Just ask the Australian citizens ) so in the end ... all a Gun Ban does is turn your citizens into victims with little to no chance of defending themselves against the criminal element. As tragic as it was ... that shooting in Connecticut is glaring proof that Gun bans do not work as it is already Illegal in the state of Conn to own assault weapons. It was evidence beyond reproach that proves that Gun Bans provide criminals with easy victims. We no longer have to ask the hypothetical question of "If the teachers had a gun themselves could they have saved lives by defending themselves and the children under their care?" The answer is most assuredly YES. All the Liberal spin and diatribe and insults and name calling will not change that FACT. So if all you Liberals want a Gun Free society so badly ... feel free to take your happy arses over to Australia and enjoy their gun free Utopia. Enjoy the soaring crime rates and skyrocketing Home Invasions since they banned their guns. No TY. Let me know how that works out for you. I will stay right here where I at least have a chance to defend myself against criminals.
Dec 17, 2012 8:56PM
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Forget the war on guns.  Take the funds away from the war on drugs and use them to fund the treatment of mental illness. Not much profit to be had, but still worthwhile.
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There is a reason these shooters / killers pick no gun zones for their crime scenes and it's not that hard to figure out....There are no guns allowed there which makes the victims sitting ducks.

After planes flew in to the twin towers and killed thousands we beefed up security and armed the pilots. It seems to have worked.
Dec 17, 2012 8:54PM
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  Genius idea! to outlaw guns.  It would not have made a difference in this tragedy, since,  the guns were legal and registered in a state with the strictest gun laws in the nation?  Hello;  how u going to collect over 10 million assult rifles owned now?  This is just the liberals using any tragedy to try and get their foot in the door to eventually outlaw all guns;  except for criminals, and the gov't?   The 2nd amendment is there so citizens can overthrow the gov't if it gets too out of hand? And to protect person and property;  Why should the criminals have automatics with big clips, and good citizens be disadvantaged? I aspier to the late charelton hesstons words;  "from my cold dead hands"  be smart america, buy as many guns and ammo as u can afford, and do not register them if possible;  The granolas have the power and they are after "all" your guns;  they are just starting with assault rifles; 
Dec 17, 2012 8:54PM
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The need to own an assault weapon is an undiagnosed mental disorder.

Freud would have a field day.
Dec 17, 2012 8:40PM
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There are currently more guns than people in the USA.

 

 How many more guns do we really need?

Dec 17, 2012 8:36PM
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Here come the left wing nuts at a gallop ! These Uninformed morons continue to blame a "Gun" as the cause of the Violence. Go into any Gun Shop and ask for an Assault Weapon and see what the shop keeper will give you ? This was a name that was given by the LIBERAL IDIOTS to anything that could shoot something and kill you! Anyone remember Oklahoma City ? Nobody asked that Fertilizer and Diesel Fuel be banned when Timothy McVey Blew up that Building with how many small kids in the day care center ? How about the Guy who Butchered all of those kids at a School in Stockton Cal. with a knife ? Any Legislation by that Liberal Bitch Diane Finestein to remove Knives from the shelves? 

Definition of an Assault Weapon is anything that can be used to assault you with ! Golf Clubs, Baseball Bats, Machettes ( Used with great success in Uganda and Rawanda) Over a Million People were hacked to death there. Anyone Banning Machettes ?  You Stupid Bastards need to wake up and start executing these pieces of human crap by the Bus Loads !  Mental Health Proffesionals , Institutes of Higher Learning and the Governmant have FAILED us Miserably and want to put the blame on Law Abiding Citizens.  This is what happens when the Liberal Hippies take over !

Dec 17, 2012 8:27PM
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This sad and tragic event was hi jacked by the media and politicians within just a few hours of happening. A truly empathetic and grief sharing person would retreat into personal silence in honor of the victims and loved ones. Allow them to peacefully and privately grieve and begin to heal and move on in whatever way best soothes their deep loss. Instead the media was all over the initial event with all inds of mis information and grandstanding by trying to interview children, blame the parents for letting them speak, and politicians were atop their crow heaps advocating all kinds of studies and new legislation for controls that ABSOLUTELY no evedence exists that any meaningful prevention or reduction of these incidents result.

I am convinced this disturbed person, in the absence of firearms, would have as easily hacked his mother to death that morning with a knife,axe, or useda baseball bat, then procedded to that school with a bomb he learned to make on the internet, or some poison cocktail for the cafeteria or air vents.

However you view this, I believe it is an act of terror no different than the FT Hood shooter but more tragic because it involved innocent children. Nuts are nuts, and with or without a gun they are a menance to innocents. In a free society this will persist.

Watch for  Gulag style government facilities soon to get those suspected of being unstable off the streets. Operative word is SUSPECTED.   

Dec 17, 2012 8:24PM
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As a veteran, .223 ammunition is for assault weapons! Not varmit hunting (that is just an excuse that the NRA and its sheep want to spread)! If you want an assault weapon, join the freaking Army or Marines. There are approximately 32 people murdered by guns per day in this country. It would be interesting to see the number of people who "saved" by gun ownership. There will be, of course, some, but not 32 a day. And yes, I am a Democrat, but have not  "sipped" a latte in my life.

Dec 17, 2012 8:15PM
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"If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." This doesn't make us safer.. it just means criminals will find a way to get a gun and and we will be stuck with no way to defend our selfs..
Dec 17, 2012 8:14PM
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It is comical to watch the simple minded scramble for excuses to perpetuate a climate in which everyone is at unreasonable risk, based upon some misguided notion of gun worship. They argue that the disturbed and the violent will "find some way" to do violence, THEREFORE we should do nothing to reduce accessibility of highly lethal automatic weapons. That is, to be polite, idiotic. 
It is a bit like saying we should not build hospitals because people will get sick anyway. Hospitals intervene to limit and moderate the impact of illness on a community while not interfering with the daily life of those who are not infirm. Hospitals help us eliminate the most deadly of risks and minimize the deadly impact. Restricting possession and open accessibility of automatic and semi-automatic weapons with large magazines would minimize the highest risk factors of public massacres. It will not stop all crime, to be sure. But no one can deny that there would be a LOT fewer people dead in Aurora and Newtown if the perpetrators had no guns or only single shot weapons. We will not "cure" the societal illness of guns violence until we stop worshiping guns. That evolution is a long way off. All we can do is to try to create conditions that will allow us to survive the risks of gun fanatics [who believe that the solution is yet MORE guns] until that progress is achieved.
Dec 17, 2012 8:11PM
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Sweet...maybe gun prices will follow suit.
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