After several years of mass murders soaring in the United States, on Thursday, gun manufacturer Colt announced the suspension of AR-15s for civilian use. However, the company’s CEO denied this action has to do with increased violence carried out by these weapons, but instead cited excess manufacturing capacity and crowded competition as the reason for limiting production of the AR-15 to military and law enforcement.
“The fact of the matter is that over the last few years, the market for modern sporting rifles has experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity. Given this level of manufacturing capacity, we believe there is adequate supply for modern sporting rifles for the foreseeable future,” President and CEO of Colt Dennis Veilleux said in a statement Thursday.
Mark Oliva, Director of Public Affairs at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, notes that the market for AR-15’s is very crowded and competitive. “There are also a lot of people who are making AR-15s on a small scale,” Oliva said. The foundation estimates there are approximately 16 million AR-15s in the hands of civilians currently.
Despite Colt’s reasoning behind the pause in production of AR-15s to the civilian population, the move has caused many to speculate whether the decision has anything to do with the controversy surrounding the use of AR-15s in a large number mass shootings witnessed over the last decade.
Andrew Patrick, Director of Political Communications at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence told reporters “with the timing, it makes you scratch your head and wonder if they’re not serving the political winds around this issue.”
As Timothy Lytton, an associate dean at Georgia State University and author of the book “Suing the Gun Industry” pointed out — whenever there is a mass shooting that potentially threatens gun manufacture’s and gun holder’s rights, the market demand for these style assault weapons usually go up, not down.
For instance, according to a CNN Business report from August 5, 2019, in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, when President Trump called for tighter gun control and enhanced background checks, purchases for assault rifles spiked, corresponding to a rise in stock prices among prominent gun manufacturers.
Colt joins others such as Dick’s Sporting Goods to cease the sale of assault style weapons. Dick Sporting Goods announced this change in February 2018, and also announced they would halt selling guns in general to people under the age of 21. Following shootings in July and August 2019, amid pressure from gun control activists, Walmart also announced that it would stop selling military-style assault weapons.
Some policymakers on the left suggest the U.S. government should reimplement a federal assault weapons ban to curb mass shooting related homicides. A 2019 study by PubMed that looked at the effects of the federal ban on assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 found that there were a statistically significant drop in mass shooting related homicides.
Although initial studies were inconclusive regarding the effects of the federal ban on assault weapons, recent studies have corroborated data showing a significant decline in fatalities resulting from the use of assault-style weapons in mass shootings. In the decade following the expiration of the ban, there was a 347 percent increase in gun violence even with overall violent crime trending downward.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there has been at least 308 mass shootings, averaging more than one mass shooting per day, in 2019 alone. Below is a map that shows the number of incidents across the United States in 2019. In 2018, there were a total of 340 mass shooting incidents.
Yet, despite clear evidence from multiple sources demonstrating a solid correlation between the number of mass shootings and the availability of assault weapons, the gun lobby led by the NRA continues to deny this fact. And though Colt decided to ban the AR-15 for civilian use, the gun manufacturer still remains tone deaf as to problematic nature of the availability of guns like the AR-15 in the hands of civilians.
Scott Ploof is Publisher and Founder of Big Easy Magazine.