Industry News: February 1998

By Robert M. Hausman

At presstime, the first session of the 105th Congress ended without resolution to the problem of the U.S. State Department denying import permits for such U.S. origin firearms as M1 Carbines, eagerly sought by collectors. In the closing days, Representative Allan Mollohan (D-WV), ranking member of the Commerce, State and Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, was said by pro-gun lobbyists to have worked tirelessly to insert language into the final bill requiring the State Department to stop impeding lawful imports of US
origin firearms.

Unfortunately, a workable agreement was not reached, although the final bill does direct the State Department to report to Congress regarding their non-approval of firearm import permits. Gun owners should call the office of Congressman Mollohan (202) 225-4172 to let him know they appreciate his efforts on their behalf.

In mid-November, President Clinton issued a directive prohibiting the possible importation of more than 1 million Uzi and other foreign-made semi-automatically loading foreign made rifles. The president directed the Treasury Department and its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms to immediately bar the imports which had been altered to conform to the import requirements set by regulations adopted by President Bush in 1989 and Clinton’s own criteria established in the 1994 Crime Law.

“Now that we’ve banned them in America,” Clinton told a reception of donors to the Democratic National Committee (making reference to the 1989 and 1994 federal gun bans, “you’ve got all these foreign gun manufacturers who are trying to modify their ‘assault weapons’ to get them in under the ‘sporting’ definition.”

Although the federal government’s own crime statistics compiled by the Department of Justice and FBI show that long guns, and military style rifles (carbines in particular) are rarely used in killings, the President declared to applause, “I’m not going to let people overseas turn our streets into battle zones where gangs are armed like they were guerilla warriors halfway around the world if I can stop it.”

In his directive, Clinton ordered a 120-day suspension of import permits while Treasury officials review current policy. He directed Treasury to determine, “whether (the guns) can be permanently blocked from our borders and banned from our streets.”

There has been a recent surge in import permit applications for the modified military style rifles. During 1997, importers have obtained permits to bring in nearly 600,000 such guns, Clinton said, and applications are pending for an additional 1 million. Only about 20,000 of the 600,000 have actually entered the U.S. thus far.

“We didn’t fight as hard as we have...only to let a few gun manufacturers sidestep our laws and undermine our progress,” Clinton concluded in an apparent reference to his ultimate goal of banning U.S. civilian firearms ownership altogether.

In other international news, 28 nations of the Americas have signed a unique Convention, allegedly to fight traffic in illegal weapons spawned in the hemisphere by the illegal narcotic trade. The convention was said to be the first of its kind, and commits its signatories to mark guns when they are sold and to require export and import licenses so the firearms can be traced. It also seeks to toughen border controls as well as to expedite the reporting of smuggled guns and the sharing of information needed to trace them, such as serial numbers.

Terms of the convention are similar to recommendations recently made by anti-gun representatives from Canada and elsewhere at the United Nations, as a way of curtailing the total global arms trade to civilians. Great concern has been expressed by the American firearms industry that the legal world trade in firearms can be severely curtailed under the guise of “crime control.”

“If we can work together, we can put the black market in weapons out of business,” President Clinton said at the signing ceremony at the Organization of American States. “Our hemisphere is setting a new standard for the world.” Mexico’s President Ernesto Zedillo, who proposed the convention in 1996, said it was a step forward in the war on drug trafficking and organized crime. Mexico, a country which essentially bans ownership of firearms to all but the economically elite, has complained that drug traffickers get most of their arms from the U.S.

“Countries should not permit guns to leave, enter or transit their territory unless they are marked and have licenses,” said U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Legal Affairs, Tim Winer. He added the U.S. was not the only source of illegal arms in the hemisphere. “China makes enough weapons to flood the world market,” he noted. U.S. law enforcement officials recently said the Russian mafia has become an important source of arms for Colombian drug traffickers, offering to supply them with helicopters, missiles, and even a submarine.

Reuters reports Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) will introduce legislation to impeach President Clinton. The impeachment inquiry would begin in the House Judiciary Committee. “When you have a pattern of abuse of office, the remedy needs to go to the top,” Barr, a former federal prosecutor, was quoted as saying.

Sturm, Ruger’s Earnings Off

Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. (NYSE-RGR), producer of the Ruger MP-9 machine pistol and a host of other firearms, reports third quarter net sales of $47.2 million compared to $48 million in the third quarter of 1996. Net income for the quarter ended September 30, 1997 totaled $4.8 million or 18 cents per share versus $5.7 million or 21 cents per share in the comparable quarter of 1996.

For the nine months ended September 30, 1997, net sales were $156.8 million and net income was $20.2 million or 75 cents per share. For the corresponding period in 1996, net sales were $179.5 million and net income was $28.4 million or $1.06 per share. Net income per share reflects a two-for-one stock split in the form of a 100% stock dividend declared on July 24, 1996.

Commenting on the quarter, chairman William B. Ruger said the results reflect improvement in the investment casting segment, as net sales for that area in the quarter increased by 28% over the third quarter of 1996. “Our forecasts include growth in both the types of applications for our titanium investment castings, as well as their usage within the golf industry.” Sturm, Ruger produces titanium golf club heads for Callaway Golf, its major client.

“The improved castings performance, however, was more than offset by weakness in demand within the firearms segment. In an effort to improve performance, the company continues to develop and introduce new firearms, products and product enhancements, such
as the new Ruger 77/44 bolt action rifle and the Ruger 77/50 muzzleloader,” Ruger noted.

The gunmaker’s unaudited, condensed, consolidated statements of income show that, for the three months ended September 30, 1997, firearms sales totalled $27,704,000, representing 58.7% of sales. During the same three months in 1996, firearms sales came to $32,814,000 or 68.3% of sales. For the nine months ending September 30, 1997, firearms sales added up to $110,628,000 or 70.6%, while during the same period in 1996, gun sales amounted to $120,481,000 or 67.1% of sales.

Blount Buys Federal

Blount International, Inc. (NYSE:BLT.A & BLT.B) has completed its acquisition of Federal Cartridge Company from Pentair, Inc. (NYSE:PNR). The transaction was structured as an all-cash acquisition for approximately $112 million.

John M. Panettiere, Blount’s president and CEO stated, “Federal is one of the premier companies in the shooting sports industry, and we are extremely excited about adding Federal to the Blount organization. We believe that the acquisition of Federal, coupled with Blount’s Sporting Equipment Group, will provide us with tremendous growth opportunities worldwide.

“This acquisition will more than double the size of our shooting sports business, creating one of the largest sporting equipment groups, with anticipated annual sales exceeding $300 million in 1998. We also expect the transaction to be accretive to our 1998 earnings,” Panettiere added.

Federal is an industry leader in the manufacture of shotshell, rimfire, and centerfire rifle and pistol ammunition. Headquartered in Montgomery, AL, Blount International, Inc. is a diversified international industrial company, operating in three principal business segments - outdoor products, industrial and power equipment, and sporting equipment. Blount manufactures and distributes products in more than 135 countries around the world.

News for Emma Gees

Residents of Fairfax County, Virginia can now get their machine gun purchase forms approved by the Fairfax County Sheriff who has begun signing the forms under a court directive, according to the Northern Virginia Citizens Defense League. So the time may be right for residents of the county to get that full-auto they have always wanted, as residents of the “Birthplace of the Bill of Rights.”

Police in America’s second largest city (Los Angeles) have been given Army surplus M-16 full-auto rifles, California Governor Pete Wilson said recently. About 600 of the rifles have been supplied to police officers in the wake of a shootout with bank robbers earlier this year which was shown live on television. Officers responding to a Bank of America robbery last February 28 were confronted with two men wearing full-length body armor. Finding their 9mm service handguns “inadequate,” the officers obtained heavier, more accurate armament from a local gun shop.

The rifles, donated by the Defense Department to the LAPD through the California Counter-Drug Procurement Program, will be issued to sergeants in the field. Los Angeles has been dubbed the “Bank Robbery Capital of the World” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Defensive Pistol Match

The Smith & Wesson (S&W) International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) Winter Nationals will take place February 25 - March 1, 1998. The twelve-stage, 200-plus round event will be held at the new S&W National Firearms Training Center (NFTC) in Springfield, Massachusetts, and be limited to 150 competitors.

“The National Firearms Training Center allows us to design stages unlike those seen at most matches,” says Tom Gordon, S&W Performance Center master gunsmith and match course designer. “We have the ability to offer low-light scenarios on multiple ranges,
something you don’t get to do with outdoor matches, and we have a 100-yard indoor range offerings lots of possibilities. The match will be interesting and challenging.”

S&W will offer tours of its manufacturing plant during the week and host a cocktail party at the nearby Springfield Armory, which was founded by George Washington. To receive an informational package and match registration information call 1-800-331-0852, extension 293.

Beretta USA says its long-awaited and potent new subcompact Mini Cougar has been released for immediate shipment to dealers. The pistol’s design specifically addresses the evolving needs of those seeking personal and professional protection. The new product is a smaller version of Beretta’s popular 8000 Cougar Series of 9mm and .40 S&W caliber semi-auto pistols. It is streamlined and ultra-compact, while being shorter in the grip and more than two ounces lighter than its larger, compact frame brother.

Beretta plans to introduce a full-sized frame Cougar chambered in .45 ACP at the 1998 SHOT Show.

Industry rumours are circulating to the effect that one or more of the major ammunition manufacturers are developing new types of .22 Winchester Magnum rimfire (WMR) ammunition a pecifically designed to perform in short-barreled handguns. Present offerings in this caliber do not achieve much in the way of ballistic advantage when fired in short-barreled arms, other than producing a great deal of muzzle blast and a sizable dent in the shooter’s pocketbook, due to the .22WMR cartridges’ much greater cost over standard .22 Long Rifle ammo.

WA, CA Bans Shot Down

The terribly oppressive and potentially ruinous firearms industry proposition I-676 in Washington State was resoundingly defeated by the people on election day in November. Computer mogul Bill Gates, working in concert with Sarah Brady’s Handgun Control, Inc.,
had spent large sums from his personal fortune to get the initiative on the ballot, and to trick a populance weary of crime into voting for what was billed as a “gun safety” measure, but to no avail.

Initiative 676 was designed to make handgun ownership as difficult and legally risky as possible, and would have created a firearm-owners registration list. A $25 licensing fee would have been required from anyone who owned, possessed or controlled a handgun, and required gunowners’ spouses to take a minimum eight-hour “safety” course (at a cost of about $100), if they could not pass an alternative test. Failure to include a trigger lock when a gun was transferred or loaned, or failure to notify the state of even temporary transfers within three days, would have become a criminal offense.

Polls conducted in mid-October indicated a two-to-one public sentiment in favor of the measure’s passage. Pro-gun groups, such as the National Rifle Association and the Citizen’s Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, were said to have had to spend over $3.5 million to defeat the initiative. The usually anti-gun Spokane Spokesman-Review blasted I-676 on Constitutional grounds, calling the initiative’s supporters, “fascists in tassel loafers.” Most of Washington’s law enforcement, rank-and file officers were against the measure as well.

In California, a much publicized attempt by the antis’ to get a state-wide bill banning small pocket pistols (Senate Bill 500) signed into law, backfired when Governor Pete Wilson declined to sign the measure which had been passed by the state’s legislature.

“SB 500 is a bill that purports to protect gun users from shoddy guns,” Wilson wrote when returning the bill to the state Senate. “But the vast majority of the proponents of SB 500 who have urged me to sign it have done so because of their passionate hope and belief that it will instead protect potential victims against whom the proscribed guns might otherwise be used. Common snese dictates that the besy way to prevent gun crimes is by first removing from society the criminals who use guns in the commission of a crime.

“Not only does SB 500 fail to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It will deprive law-abiding, legitimate gun users of the needed protection of handguns - the same handguns used by thousands of peace officers as regular service and back-up guns,” Wilson continued.

“In short, SB 500 seeks to achieve gun control in the guise of consumer protection of gun users. But rather than protect either gun owners as consumers or the public as potential victims, SB 500 is far more likely to deprive those who must defend themselves against crime of an important means of doing so.

“I will not support a measure that fails the basic test of protecting the innocent. Ultimately, the real test applied by the bill is whether or not the weapon is readily concealable. If so, it is adjudged by SB 500 to be “non-sporting” and is therefore prohibited,” Wilson explained.

“By this definition and test, all handguns-except, ironically, the largest and deadliest are included in the ban. The clear if unstated premise of this test is that handguns that are concealable can have no sporting purpose and therefore no valid purpose. This flawed logic ignores reality: it ignores the obvious fact that millions of law-abiding Californias (including a growing number of women) have felt the need to own concealable weapons, not for sport, but to protect themselves, their families, and their property. As much as I deplore the necessity, I cannot in good conscience deny them that protection if they choose it,” Wilson concluded.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N5 (February 1998)
and was posted online on September 8, 2017


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