Firearm stocks slide as Obama eyes ban

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Smith & Wesson has led a decline in stocks of firearms makers amid speculation that US President Barack Obama will renew a ban on assault weapons following last week’s school shooting that left 20 primary school pupils dead.

Smith & Wesson dropped 5.2 percent to $8.66 (R74.38) at the close in New York on Monday, extending its slide to 9.3 percent over two days after Friday’s massacre. Sturm Ruger fell 7.8 percent over the period, while Cabela’s, an outdoor gear retailer that sells guns and ammunition, slumped 7.3 percent.

The killings by a gunman armed with two pistols and a semi-automatic rifle reignited a debate over firearms restrictions. Obama pledged on Sunday to use “whatever power” he held to prevent such crimes, while Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), said it would be “wrong” to take gun limitations off the table.

“Every time one of these tragic events occurs, there’s certainly a flurry of discussion over whether or not the government may tighten gun control legislation,” Rommel Dionisio, a Wedbush analyst, said. The slayings might be viewed differently because of “the use of what can be considered an assault rifle and certainly the number of children, and the fact that it was very young children”.

Obama “intends to get the ball rolling”, said Dionisio, who rates Smith & Wesson stock neutral.

Authorities found a Bushmaster .223-calibre semi-automatic rifle inside the Newtown, Connecticut, school after the massacre, state Police Lieutenant Paul Vance said on Sunday.

Bushmaster is a brand of Freedom Group, which is the largest US maker of civilian arms and is owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.

Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger sell similar military-style weapons, according to their websites. Firearms accounted for 96 percent of fiscal 2012 revenue at Smith & Wesson. The stock of the company has almost doubled this year, while Sturm Ruger has gained 31.5 percent to $44. Both make handguns and rifles that include semi-automatic models.

Cabela’s dropped 6.2 percent to $41.21 on Monday. That pared the year-to-date gain for the retailer to 62 percent.

Representatives from Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger, Cabela’s and National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms-industry trade group, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Phone and e-mail messages to Peter Duda, a spokesman for Cerberus at Weber Shandwick, went unanswered.

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the second-biggest fatal mass shooting in the US as the gunman killed 20 children, aged six and seven, as well as six adults.

Manchin, the NRA-backed senator, said the nation needed to consider gun control measures following the crime.

“Everything should be on the table,” said Manchin, who had just returned from deer hunting with his family. “We need to sit down and have a common-sense discussion and move in a reasonable way.”

During the October 16 presidential debate, Obama broached the idea of renewing an assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004, 10 years after being championed by President Bill Clinton.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who sponsored the original bill, said she would introduce legislation outlawing assault weapons on the first day of the new Congress in January. – Brooke Sutherland from Bloomberg


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