Will corporate action force change on gunmakers?

Executive Summary

The U.S. gun industry is facing a number of challenges in the wake of anti-gun activism sparked by the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February. In addition to widespread student marches, a number of major corporations – including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, Bank of America and Citigroup – announced moves to limit their involvement in the sale or financing of firearms. These decisions came on the heels of a decline in gun sales in 2017 and the recent bankruptcies of two long-established gunmakers, Colt and Remington. Nonetheless, the industry remains profitable, according to a Wall Street research firm, IBISWorld. And the impact of the large corporations’ moves to distance themselves from gun companies may be cushioned by the fact that 80 percent of all civilian firearms sales take place at small, independent outlets, according to an industry trade association.

Among the key takeaways:

  • Revenue from gun and ammunition sales will grow in 2018, mostly because of military sales, but industry profit margins will decline, according to IBISWorld.

  • Civilians and law enforcement account for almost half of all U.S. gun purchases.

  • While mass shootings such as the ones that occurred in Parkland and Las Vegas generate intense public attention, they constitute only a small part of U.S. gun deaths.

  • Click here to listen to an interview with author Joe Lapointe or click here for the transcript.

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Resources for Further Study



Diaz, Tom, “The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It,” The New Press, 2013. A fierce critic of the firearms industry charges that it chokes off detailed data about the effects of its products and “promotes its fantasy world of good gun owners and bad criminals.”

Haag, Pamela, “The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture,” Basic Books, 2016. An historian from Yale combines insights on contract law with a history of American gun manufacturing and informed speculation about ghosts and the eccentric daughter of Oliver Winchester.

Henigan, Dennis, “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People: And Other Myths About Guns and Gun Control,” Beacon Press, 2016. A former vice president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence pushes back against Second Amendment arguments that have framed the gun-control debate.

Loesch, Dana, “Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America,” Center Street, 2014. The fiery spokesperson for the National Rifle Association makes the case for guns as a fundamental American right under the Second Amendment.

Winkler, Adam, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” W.W. Norton, 2011. A UCLA law professor examines arguments regarding the Second Amendment and takes an even-handed look in an effort to bring both sides of the debate to some agreement.


Hsu, Tiffany, “Why It May Be Impossible to Measure the Impact of Stores Limiting Gun Sales,” The New York Times, March 2, 2018, http://tinyurl.com/y8hd359w. Data on gun sales are hard to come by because of foggy reporting standards and loopholes in laws, a reporter writes.

Smith, Jeremy Adam, “Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns?” Scientific American, March 14, 2018, http://tinyurl.com/ybsfyg48. An examination of how fear and uncertainty spur gun sales, including a study that found those “who felt most emotionally and morally attached to their guns were 78 percent white and 65 percent male.”

Reports and Studies

“Firearms and Ammunition Industry Economic Impact Report 2018,” National Shooting Sports Foundation, 2018, http://tinyurl.com/y7pb2vpe. The trade association for the firearms industry reports on production, trends and financial impact of the industry in the civilian market.

“Vista Outdoor’s CEO Christopher Metz on Q4 2018 Results – Earnings Call Transcript,” Seeking Alpha, May 1, 2018, http://tinyurl.com/yafw96qh. The leader of a sporting goods company explains to investors its short- and long-term vision as it gets out of the gun business but continues its ammunition sales.

Soshkin, Maksim, “Guns & Ammunition Manufacturing in the US,” IBISWorld, February 2018, http://tinyurl.com/y75vvqno. A Wall Street research company presents the most recent statistics and prognostications for the firearms and ammunition industry. The report includes manufacture and sales to both civilians and military markets.

The Next Step


Caron, Christina, “N.R.A. Urges Boycott of a Dallas Restaurant Supporting ‘Reasonable’ Gun Laws,” The New York Times, May 6, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yaqo857j. A Dallas restaurant that pledged to donate part of its revenue to groups supporting effective gun regulation became the target of a boycott led by the National Rifle Association.

Duncan, Arne, “School boycotts? Yes, parents must pressure Congress to pass smart gun laws,” Chicago Tribune, May 23, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y7zyosy4. The Obama administration’s secretary of Education is calling for a nationwide school boycott by parents after Labor Day to pressure Congress to act on gun safety legislation.

Nocera, Joe, “Boycotts to Silence the NRA Won’t Work. Divestment Will,” Bloomberg, March 5, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/ycfscuk2. Instead of boycotting companies that have ties to the National Rifle Association, gun control advocates should pressure investors to sell off shares in gun companies, says a Bloomberg columnist.

Major Corporations

Rappeport, Alan, “Banks Tried to Curb Gun Sales. Now Republicans Are Trying to Stop Them,” The New York Times, May 25, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yc73kqq5. Republican lawmakers are urging regulators to act against major banks such as Citigroup and Bank of America that enacted new gun policies in the aftermath of recent mass shootings.

Smith, Aaron, “Dick’s soaring sales prove it can succeed without assault rifles,” CNN, May 30, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y996hgqw. Dick’s Sporting Goods has enjoyed a surge in online sales and a jump in its stock price following its decision to stop selling assault rifles and to raise the minimum gun purchase age to 21.

Tuttle, Brad, “After Dick’s, Only One Major Retailer Is Still Selling Semi-Automatic Assault Rifles,” Money, updated March 1, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/ybkq5hlj. Bass Pro Shops is the only major retailer still selling semi-automatic assault rifles, a weapon often used in mass shootings.


The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine
P.O. Box 503, Williamston, MA 01267
A nonprofit group made up of doctors seeking decreased gun violence.

Bank of America
100 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC 28255
A major multinational financial services company that recently announced it is reassessing its thinking and strategy regarding its financing of the firearms industry.

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
840 First St., N.E., Suite 400, Washington, DC 20002
A group campaigning for gun control and gun safety measures that is named after the press secretary who was severely wounded in the assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan.

Calvert Research and Management
P.O. Box 219544, Kansas City, MO 64121-9544
An investment management company that manages $14 billion in assets and advocates socially responsible investing.

Dick’s Sporting Goods
345 Court St. Coraopolis, PA 15108
A national retail chain of sporting goods stores that has recently cut back its marketing of firearms, which has prompted criticism from some gunmakers.

The National Rifle Association of America
11250 Waples Hill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030
Powerful lobbying group that opposes most legislation limiting what it sees as broad civilian gun rights under the “right to bear arms” wording in the Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

National Shooting Sports Foundation
Flintlock Ridge Office Center, 11 Mile Hill Road, Newtown, CT 06470-2359
The national firearms industry trade association representing dealers who sell to civilians.

Savage Arms Company
100 Springdale Road, Westfield, MA 01085
A firearms manufacturing company that is a brand-owned by corporate parent Vista Outdoor, which is seeking to sell off its gun lines.

DOI: 10.1177/237455680420.n1