Newtown, Conn., gun control activists plan a protest in Connecticut on Monday, a day before the National Shooting Sports Foundation kicks off its annual Las Vegas trade show, known as the Shooting, Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) show.
Activist coalition Campaign to Unload will hold a press conference early Monday in front of the Newtown headquarters of the shooting foundation to highlight what it says is the gun industry’s “shameful record” of selling assault weapons later used in mass shootings, as well as the industry’s persistent opposition to gun control laws.
The trade show calls itself the “world’s premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, law enforcement … and related products and services,” attracting buyers from across the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Over 60,000 industry professionals could attend, as more than 1,500 exhibitors jostle for space. The show is only for commercial buyers and sellers and is not open to the public.
The nonprofit think tank Violence Policy Center also released a report on Monday, coinciding with the protest, on “militarized marketing” by Freedom Group Inc., which made the weapon used in the Newtown shooting.
The report noted that another Freedom Group product – the Remington 870 shotgun – was used in the September 2013 Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shooting.
“In the wake of declining household gun ownership, it is no secret that the gun industry has focused on semiautomatic military‐style assault weapons, most notably AR‐15‐type rifles, in its marketing and sales efforts,” said the report.
Freedom Group brands may control up to 48 percent of the U.S. assault rifle market, according to the report, which could make it the market leader in the segment.
U.S. gun sales soared in the wake of the December 2012 Newtown shootings, with companies setting internal sales records, just as legislators tried and failed to tighten gun laws. Major U.S. gunmakers include Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (NASDAQ:SWHC) and Sturm, Ruger & Company (NYSE:RGR).
Gun sales slowed in late 2013, however, according to data from a federal background check system.
The “party’s over," proclaimed an October 2013 New Firearms Business industry newsletter, citing 2.5 percent fewer background checks in August 2013 over August 2012.
“Major retailers report a glut of firearms of all types that remain unsold due to lack of consumer interest,” said the report, which dubs itself a marketing resource for U.S. gun sellers. Household gun ownership hit its lowest levels in decades in 2010, according to an April 2011 study by the Violence Policy Center.
The trade show showcases new firearms and gun products, and calls itself the largest small arms trade show of its kind in the world. It puts the U.S. gun industry as worth $6 billion.