Editorial: Colt’s AR-15 decision is market driven
Guns aren’t just about hunting or target shooting or personal defense. They aren’t just about firepower.
They are also about money.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, it’s big money. The total economic impact of the gun industry topped $52 billion in 2018. Nationwide, there are 311,991 jobs related to building and selling guns, ammunition and supplies.
In Pennsylvania alone, there are more than 12,500 industry jobs pulling in $655 million in paychecks. Guns have a $2 billion economic impact in the Keystone State.
That is why Thursday’s announcement by Colt that the 172-year-old company is suspending production of the AR-15 for civilian markets can’t just be viewed through the lens of a very fraught political climate and an atmosphere alarmed by mass murders.
It has to be seen as a business decision.
Colt says the market is saturated with the AR-15 and similar weapons. It says consumer demand has changed. It says there is a need to be filled, but right now, that is for police and military weapons.
The numbers do back that up. While the industry’s revenues are growing, that growth has slowed considerably. Economic impact went up 169% between 2008 and 2016, but only 0.98% in the past two years.
For Colt — a company just three years out of bankruptcy and facing a wrongful-death lawsuit with fellow manufacturers over the 2017 Las Vegas massacre — that slowdown probably feels like rolling backward.
It might say that gun control activists have argued their case to both the industry and the American public, pushing the narrative that the AR-15 is a weapon whose place is in exactly the hands where Colt will be working to place them, those of professionals trained to use them.
It might also show that consumers are more receptive to limits than legislators — if enough of the rifles remain in supply for a major weapons manufacturer to turn attention elsewhere.
When legislative solutions are proposed for problems, often the response is to let the marketplace sort it out.
Could that be what is happening?