Rob Burgess

Sunday morning saw the deadliest mass shooting in American history, as 50 people (including the gunman) were killed, and 53 more were wounded at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Collective mourning and an outpouring of grief throughout the world followed. But, an expected run on gun stores is what had the stock market humming when the exchanges opened Monday.

“Shares of major gunmakers rallied in trading on Monday,” reported Akin Oyedele of Business Insider. “Smith & Wesson shares jumped by as much as 11 percent, while Sturm, Ruger & Company shares rallied 8 percent.”

This phenomenon is nothing new. Black Friday 2015 saw the most FBI background checks processed in a single day. Any time there is a gun-related massacre, stores are flooded with frightened firearms shoppers. The rash of mass shootings and fears over tighter gun control in their wake have only served to fatten the pockets of these two main, publicly traded gun makers, among others.

“Five years ago, Ruger’s stock price was $19.06 per share,” reported Matt Rocheleau of The Boston Globe on Monday. “Today it opened at $61.95, or 225 percent higher. Smith & Wesson’s stock price was $3.18 per share five years ago. Today it opened at $23.40, or 636 percent higher.”

Take these financial windfalls one step further, and you can see the legislative efforts to keep guns as available as possible play out in real time. The National Rifle Association in particular has been on the receiving end of this fear-fueled payday.

“Since 2005, the gun industry and its corporate allies have given between $20 million and $52.6 million to it through the NRA Ring of Freedom sponsor program. Donors include firearm companies like Midway USA, Springfield Armory Inc., Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Beretta USA Corporation. Other supporters from the gun industry include Cabala’s, Sturm Rugar & Co., and Smith & Wesson,” reported Business Insider’s Walter Hickey on Jan. 16, 2013. “Some companies donate portions of sales directly to the NRA. Crimson Trace, which makes laser sights, donates 10 percent of each sale to the NRA. Taurus buys an NRA membership for everyone who buys one of their guns. Sturm Rugar gives $1 to the NRA for each gun sold, which amounts to millions. The NRA’s revenues are intrinsically linked to the success of the gun business.”

Besides offering an A-to-F grading system for every member of Congress and the Senate, which many of the NRA’s millions of members base their entire vote on, the group spends fistfuls of cash to make sure gun laws stay right where they and their backers want them.

“According to OpenSecrets, a site that tracks money in politics, the NRA spent $984,152 on campaign contributions during the 2014 election cycle,” reported Fortune’s Ben Geier on Dec. 3, 2015. “It also spent more than $3 million on lobbying in both 2013 and 2014. The NRA also spent $28,212,718 on outside political contributions during this period, which includes ads paid for directly by the NRA. That makes it the tenth biggest spender when it comes to such political spending.”

Around and around we go.

While the NRA has been hushed about this latest tragedy as of this writing, you can bet when it breaks its silence it won’t be to advocate for sensible gun control.

Follow the money. You want to know why our gun laws never change, no matter how high the body count climbs? Look no further. Why put a stop to a phenomenon this profitable?

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

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