3 Very Scary Facts about the Gun Industry that Should Have You Spooked


Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

Even though it’s Halloween, this could be the scariest thing you read all day:

1. The gun industry is profiting from gun violence.
Often after mass shootings, gun sales rise. The gun industry is making money from our tragedies.

2. Congress has failed to pass common-sense gun laws that would help make our communities safer and the gun industry is to blame.
Every year, millions of dollars are funneled to the NRA by irresponsible gun companies to block gun reform – companies like Sturm Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Olin. Even Cerberus, who said it would sell its stake in Freedom Group, failed to keep its promise and even appointed executives who finance ads which attack Connecticut Governor Malloy for fighting to enact gun safety measures.

3. Your money may be helping to fuel the gun violence epidemic in the US. 
Many individuals, pensions, and university endowments are invested in these irresponsible gun companies. You could be helping to fund the industry profiting from violence and not even know it.

Young Americans are paying the price for weak gun laws. Stand up to the gun industry by taking action NOW: 

  • Support students who are demanding their universities stop investing in gun violence
  • Check out our toolkit to learn how you can take action on your campus
  • Join the conversation on Twitter by using the DivestGuns hashtag
  • On November 4th vote for candidates who believe in common-sense gun reform


Take Action at the UC Divestment Campaign Page

Students at the University of California Santa Barbara, in honor of their fellow students murdered and injured in Isla Vista, demand from the University of California transparency of its $88 billion endowment and a ban on all future investments in the gun industry. Pledge to stand with UCSB.

How UC-Santa Barbara Can Turn Grief Into Action: Divest from Gun Manufacturers

How UC-Santa Barbara Can Turn Grief Into Action: Divest from Gun Manufacturers

by Peter Dreier and Jennifer Fiore
The Nation
May 27, 2014

Students and faculty at the University of California–Santa Barbara are understandably in shock after the murder of six innocent people Friday in the Isla Vista community that borders the campus. Over the next few weeks, there will be many memorial services, tributes and other events to remember the victims and provide family and friends with opportunities to mourn. But if UCSB students, alumni, faculty and staff want to channel their feelings into constructive action, here’s a suggestion: ask the University of California Regents if its $88 billion endowment is contributing to gun violence by being invested in gun companies that fund the National Rifle Association (NRA) and obstruct common-sense gun policies. If it is, they should demand that the UC system divest itself from these merchants of death.

America mourns with the families affected by this latest mass shooting. We face the responsibility to work together to stop this madness.

“Not one more,” said a heartbroken Richard Martinez, the day after his 20-year-old Christopher, a UCSB student, was killed in the Isla Vista tragedy. “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live?

The following day, Martinez made additional comments: “There’s a tendency to think that this was a madman and that we can’t do anything about it. I think that’s an easy out. I don’t believe it. I know this is a complicated problem but I do believe it has a solution.

Martinez is right. There is a solution, and it starts with putting economic pressure on the gun industry. The companies that manufacture guns and ammunition and the NRA are responsible for the United States having the weakest gun laws among modern democracies. Last April, a few months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the gun lobby killed legislation to extend background checks for gun sales, ban assault weapons and limit the size of guns’ ammunition magazines.

The NRA has even used its political clout to block medical and academic research that would help us understand and end the epidemic of gun violence. According to ProPublica, “Since 1996, when a small CDC-funded study on the risks of owning a firearm ignited opposition from Republicans, the CDC’s budget for research on firearms injuries has shrunk to zero.” Last week, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) filed a bill that would fund the CDC research. The NRA issued a statement calling Markey’s bill “unethical” and an “abuse of taxpayer funds for anti-gun political propaganda under the guise of ‘research.’”

Although the NRA likes to portray itself as representing grassroots gun owners, only about 4 million of the 90 million American gun owners are NRA members. The bulk of the NRA’s money comes from gun and ammo manufacturers that donate millions of dollars to further political obstructionism and fear-mongering among a small but vocal minority of gun owners. The gun makers’ profits—and the profits of Walmart (the nation’s largest seller of guns and ammunition) and other retailers—grow when there are few restrictions on the sale and ownership of guns and ammunition.

“There is a lot of profit to be made for all of this sorrow, all of this death, and all of this destruction,” said Dr. Sheldon Teperman, director of trauma surgery at the Jacobi Medical Center in New York City, who routinely deals with gunshot victims and who was interviewed for a video urging people to unload gun companies from their 401k investments.

The gun industry—led by Remington Outdoor, Sturm Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Olin—has profited, even as more Americans die by the products they manufacture and aggressively market. The value of these companies has grown significantly just as the rate of mass shootings has increased.

Cerberus Capital Management owns Freedom Group, maker of the Bushmaster XM-15, which Adam Lanza used at Sandy Hook Elementary School to massacre twenty children and six educators in minutes. Cerberus promised to sell the gun maker, but after eighteen months it has not yet done so.

Sturm Ruger is the manufacturer of assault weapons banned in California and in 2012 donated over $1.25 million to the NRA through a program of selling guns and donating $1 for each gun to the lobby group.

Smith & Wesson is the maker of the assault weapon used in the Aurora, Colorado, and LAX airport shootings and the semiautomatic pistol used at the recent Fort Hood shooting. Smith & Wesson recently gave the NRA a check for $600,000 to continue its work promoting guns and gun culture.

Olin owns Winchester Ammunition, an NRA donor of between $500,000 and $1 million and maker of ammunition intended to quickly expand inside the body, leading to greater human damage.

By divesting from these companies, we bring a new kind of pressure to bear on the forces of obstruction that Martinez called out. Divestment was a useful tool in the anti-apartheid efforts in the 1980s and again in bringing the tobacco industry to the table in the 1990s.

University endowments play a special role here, given the escalation of gun violence in our school and college campuses. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, at least seventy-two shootings have occurred on school campuses in the seventeen months since the Sandy Hook massacre. In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, gun deaths—homicides, suicides and accidents—were the second-highest reason for death of young people ages 15–24, after only automobile accidents, according to a recent Center for American Progress report. Universities should lead to ensure that they do not further the epidemic of gun violence by financially supporting the companies that profit from the devastation of young people’s lives.

That is beginning to happen. In February, Occidental College became the first higher education institution to pledge to stay away from any investments in companies that manufacture military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines for general public sale. The college’s trustees did so at the urging of faculty and students who were horrified by the epidemic of gun violence, including those at schools and universities across the country. It turned out that Occidental’s endowment did not have investments in such companies, but its board’s policy ensured that it would not add any such stocks to its portfolio in the future.

Last year, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), both large public pension funds, moved to divest from manufacturers of assault weapons. The University of California endowment is one of the largest in the country. If the UC system announced a similar policy, it would have a huge impact, inspiring other universities to follow its example.

Media coverage of the Isla Vista tragedy has primarily focused on the details of the rampage, the mental problems, loneliness and anti-women manifesto of killer Elliot Rodger, and the grieving of the families and friends of Rodger’s victims. Rodger was seriously mentally ill. So was Adam Lanza. There are lots of such people in this world. But if we make it easy for them to obtain guns, they are more likely to translate their psychological problems into dangerous and deadly anti-social behavior.

Guns are a large part of American culture. Few object to the manufacture and sale of rifles used in hunting, a sport that millions of Americans enjoy relatively safely. But according to a CBS News poll last December, 85 percent of all Americans—including 84 percent of Republicans, 92 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents and 84 percent of gun owners—favor a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers.

Some will point out that Rodger passed background checks and purchased his Glock 34 and SIG Sauers weapons legally. That simply suggests that we should made it much more difficult for people to purchase assault weapons. In fact, a Rasmussen Reports survey in December revealed that 59 percent of likely US voters think there should be a ban on the purchase of semi-automatic and assault-type weapons. Only 33 percent disagree.

That’s the only way to prevent mass killings like we witnessed in at Sandy Hook Elementary, at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University and last week in Isla Vista.

Our communities—especially students from kindergarten through university—are bearing the brunt of gun violence while corporate executives reap the financial rewards. Our institutions of higher learning should not profit from the violence that is wracked upon their students, whom schools are pledged to care for.

Toward that end, the University of California should join with major pension funds, unions, religious organizations and individuals by withdrawing its investments from gun manufacturers that profit from the violence wracked on our schoolchildren. We can stop the madness. We can learn from this horror, and even as we grieve, we can move forward.

Unload Your 401K: Activists Launch Campaign to Defund Gun Makers

A new front is opening today in the fight against gun violence: divestment. Today, a coalition of more than twenty well-known national organizations, led by Campaign to Unload and States United to Prevent Gun Violence, are launching a new hard-hitting campaign to defund gun manufacturers: “Unload Your 401K.” Their message: “You might be invested in gun companies and not even realize it.”

“Unload Your 401K” features a new tactic, divestment of stock in gun companies, and a new tool to empower the public to take action. UnloadYour401k, which launches today, will empower people upset with gun violence to stop financially supporting guns. The campaign will target Sturm Ruger (RGR), Smith & Wesson (SWHC), and Olin (OLN). Nearly half the value of these three companies comes from mutual funds.

The website includes a powerful short film that brings together family members of those killed or wounded in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and everyday gun violence.

See the short film here.

“Divestment is a new front in the war against America’s epidemic of gun violence,” said Jennifer Fiore, Executive Director of Campaign to Unload. “It’s time to defund the companies that profit from gun violence and obstruct the political change that would end it. Over 51 million Americans have a 401K retirement plan that could be contributing to the gun lobby– driving wealth to gun manufacturers and funding efforts that have stalled all action in Congress.”

“People horrified by Sandy Hook and Columbine are financially supporting the gun industry, and with today’s launch they will have the tools to fight back,” adds Sue Hornik, Executive Director of States United.

Divestment can be a powerful tool for change — playing a huge part in the end of Apartheid in South Africa and in changing tobacco policy in the US. People don’t want to financially support industries that cause harm– and divestment allows opponents of gun violence a key pathway to express, act, and organize on their concerns.

“When my son was shot and killed at Columbine, my world was turned upside down,” said Tom Mauser of Littleton, CO, whose story is featured in the new ‘Unload Your 401K’ video. “The idea that my retirement investments could be supporting this irresponsible industry — could be supporting the industry that has vigorously fought reasonable gun safety laws — is devastating. Divestment is an essential tool to fight back against this senseless gun violence and the wealthy gun makers driving it.”

“Gun companies are getting rich off manufacturing people killers, and I want no part of it,” concluded Lori Haas, whose daughter survived the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.

# # #

The Campaign to Unload is a national coalition of 50 leaders and organizations representing over 20 million Americans calling for divestiture from the gun industry. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

States United to Prevent Gun Violence is a national non-profit organization dedicated to making our families and communities safer. Together with our 27 state affiliates, States United is working to build healthy communities by reducing gun death and injury through stronger laws, education and grassroots action.

5 Reasons Why to DivestGuns Now

STUDENTS: Congress is stalled but we do not have to wait for government to make the call for “not one more” real. There is a path forward: Divestment.

1) Young Americans are paying the price for Congress’s failure to act on gun reform.

In 2010, gun deaths were the second highest reason for death of young people ages 15–24, and by 2015 gun deaths will replace automobile accidents as the leading cause of death for Millennials. There have been 74 school and campus shootings since Newtown alone.

2) The NRA, with funding from irresponsible gun companies, obstructs legislative change.

Freedom Group, Sturm Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Olin, profit from America’s tragedies. Millions of dollars are funneled to the NRA to block gun reform, money invested in gun companies by individuals, pensions, and university endowments. Our money is being used to block common-sense gun reform.


3) Divestment works.

Economic pressure on the gun industry is crucial to ending political stagnancy, as it did to end the Apartheid regime in South Africa. As Eric Milgram, father of two Sandy Hook Elementary survivors, stated, “gun companies won’t respond to moral sentiment, but they will respond to economic pain.” For this reason the divestment movement is being called “the new front in the war on gun violence.”


4) The movement to divest guns is taking off.

  • We’ve only just begun and are already getting a lot of attention and finding success.
  • In 2013 hedge funds divested more than $171 million from the gun industry
  • New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Rhode Island, have divested their municipal and pension funds, as did the largest pension fund, CalSTRS (California State Teaching Retirement System)
  • Many individuals are divesting their retirement funds using UnloadYour401k
  • Occidental College banned investments in assault weapons manufacturers in February, 2014
  • Student-led movements at Princeton and University of Pennsylvania have formed to demand their universities’ endowments divest guns


5) Together, young Americans can amplify their voices to create change.

Action from students is critical to reducing gun violence:

  • Join UC-Santa Barbara students to pressure the University of California to divest its endowment funds.
  • Learn how UCSB can turn “grief into action” — op-ed by Campaign to Unload
  • Sign the petition to tell UC to take a clear stance against investing in gun violence
  • Join the conversation by using #DivestGuns on social media
  • Start a divestment campaign on your campus. Contact us to learn how to get started.

Future on Lockdown

Future on Lockdown

Amanda Szkutak is a recent graduate of the George Washington University and a Program Associate at Campaign to Unload 

When I begin to hear the news of a mass shooting outside of the UCSB campus, I am upset and horrified– but not shocked. The gunman, a UC-Santa Barbara student, terrorized the campus town, killing 6 students shortly after declaring his intention to seek “retribution” in a YouTube video. It sounds like a nightmare but, more and more, gun violence has become a very real part of students’ lives.

Due to our “failures of legislative and moral courage… we ask our kids to pile themselves silently into their classroom closets, and we tell them this is what freedom looks like.”

-Dahlia Lithwick, “Lockdown Nation”

In school I was taught that the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun was a locked classroom door and a school desk. We practiced monthly for potential tragedy. An announcement would come over the loudspeaker; we would close the blinds, lock the door, hide under our desks, and wait.

As an adult, I look back on these experiences with bewilderment. Why hadn’t I been more scared? Maybe it was because as a student in a post-Columbine America intruder drills had become a mundane routine. Like fire drills, intruder drills were seen as a break from math class, a time to pass notes and whisper under the desks. We would shuffle through the motions in a manner completely detached from reality of a school shooting which can only be pure, unimaginable terror.

The issue is that lockdown drills are a symptom of, not a solution to, the gun violence problem. Even more troubling, these drills are teaching generations of students, that not only are school shootings natural but an unavoidable reality like fires or a natural disasters- an uncontrollable force, an act of God. This attitude discourages action even as gun violence worsens for students.

There is, however, an even deeper irony to lockdown drills, in that we use the same line of logic when attempting to address the greater question of how to prevent gun violence. We pretend it’s routine, unavoidable. We hide from the issue. We remain silent. We wait. We hope that the intruder won’t turn the handle on our classroom door, our community.

Richard Martinez, the grief-stricken father of one of the victims of the ‪Isla Vista shooting, put out an emotional call for reform, sickened that the NRA and Congress continue to “tolerate” and “normalize” mass murder. Yet this idea, that these tragedies are somehow “normal,” goes even further – underpinning our culture on guns and the way schools are teaching students to see gun violence.

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown – these tragedies should weigh heavy on the American conscious, as lawmakers have still not taken meaningful action to address gun violence against young Americans. The death of 6 students outside the UCSB campus only provides further proof that Millennials are paying the price for these legislative failures in blood.

There have been 72 school and campus shootings since Newtown alone.

This is the America students go to school in. Yet, rather than enact common-sense laws regarding guns, Congress has taken no decisive action and has been met by an indifferent American public. Both financial pressure and public outrage are needed to end this political stagnancy and gun industry irresponsibility. Campaigns such as the recent push for UCSB to divest from gun manufacturers can accomplish both.

More importantly, however, we need to decide, as a society, that community safety is a priority or we will continue to condemn future generations to remain part of the cycle of violence by teaching students that a solution doesn’t exist.

As a recent college graduate, I look out on the America where students go to school and my heart sinks. Every day I read clinical, statistic filled articles on Millennial gun deaths and school shootings that fail to capture the tragedy and horror. I recall a photo taken by a student at Kent State and I try to imagine what hiding, scared for your life, would be like. I didn’t feel the terror under that classroom desk 10 years ago but I feel it now.

The demand for “Not one more” has been heard too many times before. Yet, I hope Richard Martinez’s call to “stop this madness” is heard, because ultimately he’s right: “We don’t have to live this way.”


You’re Probably Invested in Gun Companies and Don’t Even Know It

by Kevin Short
May 2/2014

…On April 29, Campaign to Unload launched Unload Your 401(k), a website that lets people see if their 401(k) retirement plan invests in publicly traded gun companies. Roughly half the shares of the three companies are held by mutual funds and institutional investors. The goal is to prompt people to invest their money elsewhere.

It’s a similar strategy to that once employed against South African apartheid. In the 1980s, colleges, institutional investors and local governments were pressured to stop investing in companies affiliated with the apartheid regime. Public pressure mounted, and eventually the U.S. government banned investment in South African companies and barred many imports from the country. The divestment and sanctions undermined the South African economy, helping lead to the fall of apartheid several years later.

Similar movements have pushed for divestment from tobacco and fossil fuel companies, with varying levels of success.

“When people learn they might be invested in a company that helps to perpetuate senseless gun violence, it’s a horrifying thought,” said Cathie Whittenburg, communications director for States United to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the organizations behind the latest campaign.

Smith & Wesson; Sturm, Ruger & Co.; and Olin Corporation did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

Jennifer Fiore, executive director of the Campaign to Unload, told HuffPost Live on Tuesday that the idea for the campaign came after years of watching federal inaction on gun control. Despite the fact that roughly 90 percent of Americans then supported expanded background checks before gun sales, last year bills to expand background checks, ban assault weapons and ban high-capacity gun magazines all died in the Senate.

“We started to look at opportunities for creating change that didn’t rely on Congress and the obstructionist gun lobby that was making sure nothing happened,” Fiore told HuffPost Live.

Assault Weapons Sales Cool

Assault Weapons Sales Cool

CNN/Money reports today that the rush in assault weapons sales last year has tapered, along with the with the threat of a ban on the type of gun used in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater and Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Many rifle manufacturers ramped up production last year in response to the sales spike, said Rommel Dionisio, industry analyst for Wedbush Securities. But demand has since stagnated, he said, and there’s now a glut of gun inventory,

“I believe what happened is that everybody who wanted to buy one did,” said Fernwood Firearms’ John Kielbasa. “Now it’s a buyer’s market.”

An inventory glut, combined with a decrease in sales (estimated by background checks performed by licensed firearms dealers) could spell decline for the industry, and those holding shares in the publicly traded companies.

Yesterday, we shared that a research firm had downgraded shares of Olin. Check your investments for these companies: Sturm Ruger (RGR), Smith & Wesson (SWHC), and Olin (OLN).

Divestment is a way to pressure the industry that obstructs common sense gun reform like the assault weapons ban and expanded background checks. It worked for South African anti-apartheid activists and it can work for gun violence prevention, too.

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Ammo Maker Olin’s Stock Downgraded

The market forces are combining to spell doom for investments in gun makers. Just yesterday, research firm Monness Crespi & Hardt downgraded their outlook on ammunition maker Olin (OLN). Last year MN&C upgraded Olin to a “buy” rating and has now reversed course to give Olin a “neutral” rating.

The Motley Fool takes note and ventures a guess why Olin was downgraded:

Olin’s “fatal” flaw is that analysts expect both earnings and cash flow to evaporate in short order, as guns sales wane.

TMF also correctly notes that FBI background checks, a general sign of gun sales, are down this year and that share prices for assault weapon manufacturer Sturm Ruger (RGR) are also down significantly this year, especially since missing earnings in February.

All in all, here’s an objective, market-based reason for dumping your gun industry stocks. They’re just not going to serve your portfolio well.

Manufacturer of Assault Rifle Used in Newtown Shooting Gave a Million Dollars to the NRA

Gun Industry “Corporate Partners” Donated Between $19.3 million and $60.2 million to the NRA since 2005, New VPC Report Reveals


Washington, DC — The National Rifle Association has received up to $60.2 million in donations from the firearms industry since 2005, including eight “corporate partners” that each gave a million dollars or more, a new report from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) reveals.


In the new report, Blood Money II: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA, the VPC reveals that members of the gun industry have donated between $19.3 million and $60.2 million since 2005. And while the NRA claims on its website that it has no financial ties to the gun industry, its own publications, statements, and even awards ceremonies prove otherwise.


One of these “corporate partners” is Freedom Group, manufacturer of the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the mass shooting of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. Cerberus Capital Management, which owns a 94 percent share in Freedom Group, pledged to sell its investment in the days following the Sandy Hook shooting but has yet to uphold its promise.


After ramping up its financial support to a million dollars or more, Freedom Group’s leadership was inducted into the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom at the organization’s annual meeting in May 2013. The Golden Ring of Freedom is reserved for those who have “given gifts of cash totaling $1,000,000 or more,” according to the NRA.


A second inductee was Smith & Wesson, manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the July 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead and 58 wounded. In a promotional video on the NRA’s website, Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney explains, “I think it’s important for everybody to step up and support the NRA. They are our voice.”


VPC Executive Director and study author Josh Sugarmann, a native of Newtown, states, “Less than five months after the tragedy in Newtown, while families and the entire community still mourned, the NRA was celebrating its financial ties to the manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the shooting. In the wake of declining household gun ownership, the NRA has turned to the funder of last resort: the gun industry itself.”


The VPC first exposed the gun industry’s growing financial support of the NRA in its original Blood Money study, released in 2011. At that time, gun industry financial support of the NRA totaled between $14.7 million and $38.9 million. Since then, the giving levels have risen dramatically. (The exact total is not possible to know because in its promotional efforts the NRA only reports a range of giving levels within its “Corporate Partners Program” — for example, gifts between $1 million and $5 million and gifts between $500,000 and $1 million.)


Freedom Group, Smith & Wesson, and other million-dollar donors were honored at the “biggest, best NRA Ring of Freedom Brunch ever” during the NRA’s May 2013 annual meeting in Houston, according to the group. These “selfless, passionate, and devoted leaders” were given yellow sports coats, each with a Golden Ring of Freedom crest on the front pocket, and then took part in “what has become a joyous — and loud — Golden Ring of Freedom custom: the ringing of the ‘Freedom’ bell.”


The new report shows the NRA’s top corporate benefactor remains MidwayUSA, the official sponsor of the organization’s annual meeting for this and previous years. MidwayUSA sells ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other shooting accessories. MidwayUSA has donated more than $9 million to the NRA, primarily through its NRA Round-Up program, which rounds up customer purchases to the nearest dollar and gives the difference to the NRA’s lobbying arm.


Additional gun industry “corporate partners” that have given a million dollars or more to the NRA include: gunmakers Beretta USASpringfield Armory, and Sturm, Ruger & Co; accessories vendor Brownells; and target manufacturer Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems. Donors that have given $250,000 or more include: Benelli USACabela’s; and Glock.


In addition to direct donations, the NRA has embarked on an aggressive series of “sponsorship” programs funded by the gun industry. Gun companies sponsor specific NRA programs, online features, and memberships. This year, Brownells, headed by NRA board member and newly minted Golden Ring of Freedom member Pete Brownell, renewed its commitment as the “presenting sponsor” of the NRA’s “Life of Duty” program, which allows individuals or corporations to purchase one-year NRA memberships for members of the military and law enforcement. And in December 2012, the NRA announced that Smith & Wesson would be the “presenting sponsor” of the NRA Women’s Network.


To read the full report, please visit. The report includes a full list of gun industry members and their funding levels as well as extensive quotes from both NRA officials and gun industry executives extolling the growing financial links between the two.