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Investors Shun Gun Makers As Gun-Control Talk Increases

(Scroll down for a Tuesday morning update.)

On Wall Street, investors appear to be listening closely to the growing talk in Washington about curbing assault weapons.

Share prices for gun makers were down when the stock market closed Monday, on an otherwise positive trading day. The S&P 500 Index, a broad measure of stock performance, was up nearly 1.2 percent, but shares of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. tumbled 5.2 percent, to $8.65. On Friday — the day a gunman shot and killed 20 young children in Newtown, Conn. — the company's value fell 4 percent.

Smith & Wesson's share price had peaked at just over $11 in early December, following President Obama's November re-election. Earlier this month, the company said its revenue had surged 48 percent in the three months that ended Oct. 31 — just as the presidential campaign was wrapping up.

In the run-up to the election, analysts had predicted the autumn sales gain, saying they expected consumers to stockpile weapons if it appeared Obama would win a second term.

But investors appear more concerned now about the long-term outlook for restrictions on gun sales rather than the short-term sales bounce following the election.

Sturm Ruger & Co., another gun maker, saw its stock price drop 3.45 percent Monday, after tumbling more than 4 percent Friday.

Most firearms manufacturers don't sell stock to the public. The private companies include Colt Firearms, Beretta USA, Herstal Group (the parent company for Browning and Winchester). The list also includes Bushmaster, which produces the AR-15 rifle, one of the weapon used by the Newtown gunman.

Cabela's Inc., a Nebraska-based retailer that sells hunting and fishing gear, saw its stock fall 2.7 percent Monday, after a 1 percent drop on Friday. In September, The Wall Street Journal quoted a Cabela spokesman saying the company had seen a 25 percent increase in new gun buyers immediately following the 2008 election.

Speaking at a memorial service in Newtown Sunday, Obama promised to use "whatever power" he has to prevent mass killings.

Support for gun control appeared to grow Monday, as prominent figures spoke out in favor of change. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, called for tighter controls.

And West Virginia's Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who is a longtime member of the NRA, said officials should look at possible changes to mental-health treatment — as well as laws involving "military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines."

Update at 10 a.m. ET, Dec. 18. Slide Continues:

On Tuesday morning, investors continued dumping the shares of gun manufacturers. On Wall Street, shares of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. fell another 8.7 percent in the first half hour of trading, down to $7.90.

Sturm Ruger & Co., another gun maker, lost 5.68 percent in the same 30 minutes, down to $41.50.

In other news Tuesday morning, Cerberus Capital, a private equity firm, said in a statement that it's looking to sell its stake in the Freedom Group, a gun manufacturer that made one of the weapons used in Friday's shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marilyn Geewax is a contributor to NPR.
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