By Barry Meier and Michael J. De La Merced, New York Times
At one time, military-style assault rifles like the ones used at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and in other mass shootings represented a relatively small segment of sales for gun manufacturers.
But in recent decades, such guns serve as one of the two financial pillars of the firearms industry, along with smaller handguns that are designed to be concealed, which have been the biggest driver of sales.
Together, the popularity of the assault rifles and small handguns highlight how the industry has changed in recent decades, as people have increasingly turned to guns for self-defense and less for hunting.
“The younger generations have fewer hunters,” said Thomas W. Smith, the director of the General Social Survey, an annual survey conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago. “Hunting is a traditional activity, and one that is declining in popularity.”
Manufacturers, in presentations to analysts and investors, have acknowledged the central role that assault rifles and concealed handguns play in their financial health. They also often point out that sales frequently rise after mass shootings like the attacks over the last year in Paris, San Bernardino, California, and Orlando.
“This spike in demand was strongly correlated to the tragic, terrorist events in Paris and San Bernardino,” Michael O. Fifer, the chief executive of Sturm Ruger, a major firearms maker, wrote in a letter to investors in May. “Demand for firearms for self-defense and concealed carry increased dramatically.”