U.S. Markets open in 16 mins

Gunmaker Colt suspending production of rifles for civilian market including AR-15

Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY
Gunmaker Colt suspending production of rifles for civilian market including AR-15

The American firearms company Colt is suspending production of military-style weapons for civilian use, including the popular AR-15.

In a statement Thursday, Colt's president and CEO Dennis Veilleux attributed the West Hartford, Connecticut-based company's shift to changes in consumer demand and a market already saturated with similar weapons. 

"The fact of the matter is that over the last few years, the market for modern sporting rifles has experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity," Veilleux said. "Given this level of manufacturing capacity, we believe there is adequate supply for modern sporting rifles for the foreseeable future."

The company will concentrate on fulfilling military and law enforcement contracts with its rifle manufacturing, Veilleux said, adding the company also is expanding its lines of pistols and revolvers.

Sandy Hook Promise: Latest PSA gives nightmarish look at school shootings

Open carry store policies: Publix, Aldi, CVS, Walgreens and other businesses want shoppers to leave guns at home

"Our warfighters and law enforcement personnel continue to demand Colt rifles and we are fortunate enough to have been awarded significant military and law enforcement contracts,"  Veilleux said. "Currently, these high-volume contracts are absorbing all of Colt’s manufacturing capacity for rifles."

He acknowledged there has been some criticism from gun rights advocates for moving away from the civilian market for assault weapons.

"We want to assure you that Colt is committed to the Second Amendment, highly values its customers and continues to manufacture the world’s finest quality firearms for the consumer market," Veilleux said. "At the end of the day, we believe it is good sense to follow consumer demand and to adjust as market dynamics change."

A national gun control debate has focused on access to AR-15s and other assault-style rifles because of their use in mass shootings.

Adam Winkler, a gun policy expert at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, said Colt's decision seems driven by business considerations rather than politics.

FBI statistics show more than 2.3 million people applied for background checks to purchase guns in August, up from just over 1.8 million in July. Those applications, a way to track gun sales, have been rising steadily, with a slight decline after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.

Gun sales usually go up when guy buyers feel their access to such weapons are being threatened, Winkler said, noting Colt's decision risks alienating and angering its customer base.

"We've seen in the past that when gun manufacturers are viewed to have given in to gun-safety advocates, gun owners will boycott them and really hurt their business," he said. "If they think a company like Colt is disrespecting their identity or giving in to the other side, Colt's likely going to see serious damage to its other firearms brands too."

Contributing: Associated Press

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: AR-15: Colt suspends production of guns for civilian market