NEWS – Shiva Concludes

Now that a week has passed, it’s time to think about whether and how we are complicit in the Orlando killings or, rather, what opportunities to reduce gun violence have we missed that would have made the massacre much less likely? Let’s start with the two bills currently pending before the US Senate. Neither would have prevented the Orlando shooter from obtaining the arms he used. One limits the ability of persons on the no-fly list from purchasing a firearm, which is a feel-good but minimal extension of current restrictions, and one is eliminating the private sale exception to the due diligence requirements imposed on commercial sellers, which would be a significant change in the law. Neither is likely to be passed. So, if we are powerless to reduce the availability of guns through our representatives legislating, what leverage do we have to make an impact at all? Electing a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices likely to overturn District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) is a good idea [Brief review – For 200 years the Supreme Court ruled that the right to own weapons granted by the Second Amendment (“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”) attached to the militia, not to the individual, which is to say, there had to be some nexus between militia use and personal use for an individual to assert his Second Amendment right. The Heller decision, in complete contravention of earlier precedent, just sort of ignored the “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State” clause in order to bestow a constitutional right to own firearms to the individual].

Here’s an article from the nyt:

U.S. Gun Shares Extend Gains After Strong Smith & Wesson Earnings

 By REUTERS JUNE 16, 2016, 6:45 P.M. E.D.T.

 SAN FRANCISCO —  Shares of firearm makers surged on Thursday after a strong quarterly report from Smith & Wesson Holding Corp, adding to gains this week after a shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida in which 49 people were killed.

In a stock market reaction that has become familiar after mass shootings, shares of Smith & Wesson and rival Sturm Ruger & Co spiked as much as 11 percent on Monday.

High profile shootings such as the one in Orlando, Florida amplify fears of crime, leading some people to buy guns. Others buy them in case U.S. gun control laws become stricter. Both spur more sales for gun makers and strengthen their investment appeal.

On Thursday after the bell, Smith & Wesson reported fourth-quarter results above Wall Street’s expectations. The company gave a revenue forecast for fiscal 2017 that also impressed investors.

Smith & Wesson’s shares rose 7 percent higher in extended trade and Sturm Ruger’s rose 4 percent.

Shares of Smith & Wesson have surged over 40 percent in the past year, partly because of mass shootings including one in December in San Bernardino, California, that increased calls for gun control.

The U.S. Senate inched closer to scheduling votes on limited gun control measures on Thursday, with Democrats challenging Republicans to defy the national gun lobby and vote for new restrictions.

Sturm Ruger said in February it expects a rise in demand for its firearms if a Democrat wins the presidential election on Nov. 8 and becomes positioned to appoint future Supreme Court justices.

Smith & Wesson’s revenue forecast did not reflect any potential surge in demand caused by consumers worried about increased gun control, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Buchanan said on a conference call.

“We plan our business outlook and set our growth parameters based on our strategic direction, exclusive of any political or election-cycle influences that reside outside of our control,” Buchanan said.

Even as legislators and presidential hopefuls discuss gun control measures, investors worry that a year-long surge in firearm sales is losing steam.

FBI background checks, which give an indication of the state of U.S. gun sales, rose 1.1 percent in May from the prior year, according to adjusted data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

That data suggested it is becoming difficult for gun sellers to top last year’s strong sales growth.

Smith & Wesson estimated its revenue would increase around 4 percent in fiscal 2017, compared to 31 percent growth in the previous year.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

 

Pretty awful, huh? The gun trade is very profitable and it’s fair to assume that if we can make the sale of weapons less lucrative, then we can compel manufacturers to modify the device or it’s marketing in order to avoid liability and protect profitability. And it’s not so crazy an assumption. I can think of two products where the producers significantly changed the design and availability of their inherently dangerous products initially in response to nongovernmental actions – cars and cigarettes. Both are much safer than they used to be, both are marketed very differently than they were in the past, both were initially (and remain) resistant to legislative curtailment. The first strategy was for consumers to sue the crap out of the unsafe cars and cigarette producers – impose liability based on the producers foreknowledge and failure to act upon the inherent dangers of their products. And those suits were fantastically productive. Once plaintiffs got access to the manufacturers files through discovery in the actions, all hell broke loose. There was so much research they chose to ignore. Now, there are two factors in the case of guns that make such a course of action much more difficult, maybe impossible. In the cases of cars and cigarettes, the Surgeons General and the CDC had collected reams of analysis on just how hazardous the products were (thank you, Dr. C. Everett Koop) which were essential in proving damages (not just the quantum, but that there actually were damages) in the civil litigation. In the case of firearms, the Surgeon General and the CDC are, by act of Congress, not permitted to spend a single penny on researching guns as a health hazard. Accordingly, there are no good numbers out there as to who and how many people are being injured in gun violence. There’s been some journalism that attempts to compile local statistics but there is no central repository of information concerning the damage that guns do. The second factor is that Congress has granted the firearms business immunity from liability actions arising from the misuse of their products (you should still be able to collect damages if your pistol blows up in your hand). Think of those class action suits brought against tobacco’s producers and think of all corporate secrets that came out. Think of Russell Crowe. So unless that law is changed by the congress or struck down by the courts, those kind of litigations are impossible against the gun companies. Overturning those laws is a better goal for the Senate than the ones they’re currently pursuing. There’s another way to tame gunmaker corporations and that’s to go directly at their source of funding, their stock price. That happened with the tobacco industry (and, of course, the famous example of South Africa). Shareholders, pensioners, municipal funds didn’t like holding interests in corporations like Lorillard or Phillip Morris or Reynolds in their portfolios. It became, somehow, sordid. It wasn’t good for their reputations. Today, some of those corporations have dissolved or consolidated or, at the very least, changed their names. And also they started changing their wicked ways, complying with new industry guidelines in order to halt further erosion of their bottom lines. By divestiture, we can punish the gun producers where it hurts most –  in the bottom line. The “Campaign to Unload”, an organization dedicated to divestiture of gunmaker stock, puts it like this: “to encourage the gun industry to adopt common-sense, publicly-backed reforms, such as universal background checks and smart gun technology.” So, if you own gun stock, sell it. If you have a 401k or shares in a stock fund, contact your fund manager and tell them you don’t want to hold any firearms stock. And if you’re not sure whether you do now or not, here is a list of publicly traded gun producer stocks:

 

Vista Outdoor Inc. (VSTO) (Sporting ammunition and firearms; outdoor accessories; golf rangefinders, performance eyewear)

National Presto Industries, Inc. (NPK) (Housewares; ammunition)

Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (SWHC) (Firearms and related products)

Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (RGR) (Commercial sporting market)

TASER International, Inc. (TASR)

You’ll feel good for doing it, I promise. You’ll feel like you’ve done something and you will have.

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