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The first gun company to put AR-15s in the hands of everyday Americans 55 years ago now says they’re stopping production of the civilian version because there just isn’t enough demand these days.
Connecticut-based Colt Firearms released a statement Thursday assuring the gun rights community that it’s still “committed to the Second Amendment,” explaining that it's going to focus its rifle manufacturing efforts on their law enforcement and military contracts.
Colt didn’t mention anything about the raging national debate over gun control following a string of mass shootings this summer that left more than 50 dead, all of which featured military-grade weapons. Some of the deadliest mass shootings in recent years have involved AR-style weapons, including the Parkland school shooting that left 17 dead, the shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas shooting that left 58 dead, and the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school that left 26 dead.
Recent Gallup polling found that 56% of Americans favored banning the sale of AR-15s.
Instead, Colt said their decision was a result of the AR-15 bubble bursting. High demand for the rifles had inspired a slew of manufacturers to come out with their own versions at competitive prices, and now that demand is drying up. For every 100 newly-manufactured firearms sold in the U.S., about 35 were estimated to be AR-style rifles, Bloomberg reported last year.
“The fact of the matter is that over the last few years, the market for modern sporting rifles has experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity,” said Colt. “Given this level of manufacturing capacity, we believe there is adequate supply for modern sporting rifles for the foreseeable future.”
The AR-15 was designed in the 1950s by Eugene Stoner, who was working for Armalite, a small-arms engineering firm in California. Colt bought the patent and trademark from Armalite in 1959 and began commercial sales of the rifles five years later.
Colt’s patent ended in 1977, which allowed other gun manufacturers to start competing with them. Then, the AR-15 hit a wall in 1994, when the Clinton Administration signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was allowed to expire in 2004.
Sharon Watts who runs MomsDemand, a grassroots affiliate of Everytown Against Gun Violence, celebrated the decision as further evidence that the NRA was in trouble. “The @NRA’s #TrumpSlump is the gift that keeps on giving,” Watts tweeted.
Texas Congressman and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who has taken a hard stance against AR-15s, also used the news as an opportunity to take a swipe at the NRA — who just Tuesday shared a picture of him with the words “AR-15 Salesman of the Month.”
But some gun lovers weren't too pleased. “All conservatives should boycott Colt for caving to the socialist left concerning AR15’s for the civilian market,” one person wrote. “Give your $$$ to Remington, Ruger, Sig or any of the other manufacturers. Send a loud message to Colt!!!”
Cover: A shell is ejected as Washington state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, fires a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, at the annual "Legislative Shootout" at the Evergreen Sportsmen's Club in Olympia, Wash. The event, organized by Roach, featured rifle, shotgun, and pistol competitions for members of the legislature, staff members and guests. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)