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Gun Makers Worry Revamped Laws Will Hurt Bottom Line


You heard the president acknowledge that in some parts of the country - and more specifically, some congressional districts - gun ownership is stronger than in other parts of the country. He would need allies in those places to overcome or persuade the gun industry and its lobbying groups. Industry officials are ready to fight.

As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, some of the proposals, especially a ban on assault weapons, could take a bite out of gun-makers' revenue.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Gun industry officials were nervously awaiting the president's announcement yesterday, anxious to see what they were up against. As it happened, the proposals were about what most people had expected, to the relief of a lot of investors, and shares of some of the biggest gun makers actually finished the day higher. Nima Samadi is the senior analyst at IBISWorld.

NIMA SAMADI: It lessens some of the ambiguity regarding a potential change in gun laws, and I think perhaps that, you know, might have improved some investor confidence among people who invest in gun manufacturers.

ZARROLI: That's not to say the gun industry doesn't have a lot at stake in this fight. Samadi says depending on how they're defined, assault weapons are a big source of revenue for gun makers.

SAMADI: For them right now, it's kind of a waiting game. They've got to wait and see what, you know, those proposed changes really involve. And it's possible that it could affect some of the more popular types of guns out there and that could ultimately hurt revenue.

ZARROLI: Samadi says some of the other proposals, like measures to tighten gun trafficking and limit ammunition, probably wouldn't have as direct an impact on gun makers. Whatever the effect, manufacturers had little to say about the proposals yesterday, just as they have had little to say publically since the Sandy Hook massacre. Several major manufacturers were contacted for comment about the proposals and none responded. One who did speak out was Mike Fifer, CEO of Sturm and Ruger. On an NRA website, Fifer said manufacturers need to begin speaking out against new state and federal gun control measures.

MIKE FIFER: Just do it. Just reach out to your consumers, let them know, let them tell their friends, let's make a groundswell. Let's get that silent majority to speak up for once.

ZARROLI: Fifer's company has developed software that makes it easy for gun owners to contact their state and federal politicians, and about 400,000 people had used it as of Friday. Fifer said that some of the proposals being talked about, like the assault weapons ban, would set the industry back.

FIFER: Everybody I've talked to in the industry is anxious to keep developing new products, get them out to consumers. And nobody wants to backtrack now and try to go adjust all their current products to fit these new, new regulations. Nobody wants to do that. That's not where they're focused. That's a big step backwards for all of us.

ZARROLI: Fifer was interviewed at a convention for the gun industry sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Las Vegas. A lot of those attending the show see the proposals as an attack on gun ownership. James Rebholz, who works for a company that exports reloading supplies, paused outside the convention center yesterday afternoon to say the proposals would have a minimal effect on gun violence. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The following speaker was misidentified as James Rebholz. His name is Ken Gregg.]

KEN GREGG: I think they're going to take guns away from law-abiding citizens. And the only people that will have guns are the criminals.

ZARROLI: Not far away was Mike Cole, who works for a manufacturing company and was at the show to meet with vendors. Cole said he is sympathetic to some of the president's aims and restricting ammunition is a good idea. But he says it may be too late at this point to do anything about assault weapons.

MIKE COLE: Because there are so many assault weapons out there now that the assault weapon ban - what, it's been for almost 10 years, over 10 years, I think, that it hasn't been in effect, so it's - there's a lot of weapons out there already.

ZARROLI: Cole says the enormous size of the Las Vegas convention is a stark reminder of just how big the gun industry is. And it underscores just how big the challenges are for the White House as it tries to take the industry on. Jim Zarroli, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: January 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
The speaker identified as James Rebholz is actually Ken Gregg.
Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.

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