Thursday’s official announcement by iconic gun manufacturer Colt to cease production of its AR-15 has caused a stir among gun dealers and gun buyers alike.
“As a dealer, it helps our cause, I guess,” said Kinsey Boyle, co-owner of Triple B Guns in Coeur d’Alene. “But people want their rights to carry their guns. Law-abiding citizens are carrying their guns. There’s a lot of good people who own guns and carry guns — way more than bad people.”
Citing a glut in the consumer market, Colt announced its decision amid a nationwide outcry to ban certain rifles, with critics taking particular aim at the AR-15. These calls to ban the military-style assault rifle stem most recently from a pair of August mass shootings in Texas — one in El Paso, the other in the communities of Odessa and Midland — and an August mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.
The incidents incited former Texas representative and current presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke to declare during the Sept. 12 Democratic debate, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.” His answer was seen as both a battle cry to fellow pro-gun control advocates and ammunition for pro-Second Amendment enthusiasts to stoke fear of government overreach among the population.
Gun stores across the country reported selling out of AR-15s within four hours the morning after O’Rourke’s comments.
“[O’Rourke’s] statements have given people cause for concern,” Boyle said. “They’re afraid the government is going to come and take away our rights.”
The AR-15 is beloved by gun enthusiasts because of its accuracy and adaptability, as parts from different manufacturers are generally interchangeable.
“The modularity [is an attractive feature],” said Konner Fleming of East County Guns in Coeur d’Alene. “It’s on a platform that can be fine-tuned and, for the most part, is fairly consistent among manufacturers. A bolt from one company will fit into the gun of an AR-15 from another.”
Fleming added that customers entered the store Thursday with Colt’s announcement on their minds.
“Customers are talking about it,” he said. “Even people looking for something else, something more traditional, are talking about it. It’s a controversial topic.”
The announcement came as little surprise to both Fleming’s and Boyle’s customers.
“We’ve known about it for weeks,” Boyle said, first getting news of the decision from distributors. “I found out a couple weeks ago. That’s why we’ve been selling so many. Before [the decision], it was a slow-go. Not many people were buying. But we’ve sold quite a few in the last few weeks. We’re down to our last two.”
Colt is not the sole manufacturer of the AR-15. The patent and trademarks of the weapon, technically designated the ArmaLite-15, were originally sold by its inventor to Colt in 1959. After 2009, when the term “modern sporting rifles” became a common industry term, other manufacturers produced their own version of the weapon. Twenty-two manufacturers make a commercial version of the weapon for sale in the United States.
Colt contends that because of the number of similar weapons legally available, its decision is purely market-driven.
“The fact of the matter is that over the last few years, the market for modern sporting rifles has experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity,” Colt president and chief executive officer Dennis Veilleux said in a statement. “Given this level of manufacturing capacity, we believe there is adequate supply for modern sporting rifles for the foreseeable future.”