Mass shootings have in recent years been followed by a predictable cycle: Politicians raise the potential for gun control policies, and gun industry-funded groups respond by exaggerating the reach of gun control, sending people into a gun-buying frenzy. Every mass shooting is effectively transformed into an opportunity for profit.
But following the October 1 mass murder in Las Vegas, which took the lives of 58 people and left 546 others injured, that cycle seems to have broken. And gun companies and their investors have noticed.
Sturm, Ruger & Company, one of the largest gun manufacturers in America, had its most recent earnings call on November 1. On the call, Rommel Dionisio, an analyst with Aegis Capital, asked if the gun industry had reaped any additional sales from the “incidents in Las Vegas.” Specifically, he asked whether an increase in gun purchasing comparable to “demand spikes after San Bernardino and Orlando a year ago” had occurred.
Christopher Killoy, chief executive of Sturm Ruger, said the Las Vegas shooting was “obviously a very tragic event,” but his sales team had not noted “any impact.”
Listen to the exchange here:
A similar conversation took place on the November 9 earnings call for Compass Diversified Holdings, a firm that owns a firearms accessory company. One analyst asked Compass partner Elias Sabo if “fairly significant firearms incidents recently” have had “an effect on demand.”
Sabo said that the firm has not seen a spike in sales. In the past, Sabo noted, “There was a different tone being discussed surrounding gun control, and that doesn’t appear to be the case right now.” He added: “I don’t think that our country has become desensitized to these types of incidents, but perhaps they have, which would be pretty stunning. But I think it’s more likely attributable to the lack of discussion surrounding change in gun laws, which I think really spurred a lot of demand post the incidents that you reference.”
Listen to the exchange here:
During former President Barack Obama’s time in office, Democrats proposed more than 100 gun control measures, many of which were debated in direct response to mass shootings. Those proposals were often followed by statements from the National Rifle Association, which responded by exaggerating the reach of gun control, claiming that heightened background checks or limits on high-powered rifles would lead to gun confiscation and social unrest.
Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump signaled quickly after the Las Vegas massacre that they would not take up significant gun control laws. While some Democratic lawmakers have called for reform, their minority status in Washington, D.C., sharply reduces the probability for legislative success.
As The Intercept has reported, the gun industry has long boasted that its role in politics and its response to mass shootings has boosted profits. “The gun business was very much accelerated based on what happened after the election and then the tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook,” Ed Stack, chief executive of Dick’s Sporting Goods, a major gun retailer, boasted at a Goldman Sachs conference in 2014. Smith & Wesson executive James Debney, speaking at the Roth Capital Partners conference in 2013, noted that “the tragedy in Newtown and the legislative landscape” resulted in sales that were “significantly up.” The “fear and uncertainty that there might be increased gun control,” he added, “drove many new people to buy firearms for the first time.”
After the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the NRA issued a stern statement opposing new regulations on firearms. The NRA, notably, is firmly ingrained into the business model of gun companies. Smith & Wesson, on its earnings call last year, disclosed a “$1 million contribution to the NRA” political fund as a quarterly operating expense for the firm. In other words, gun companies count donations to the NRA as essential payments just as critical as paying staff and other expenses.