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Colt Suspends Production of AR-15s for Civilians

A customer holds an AR-15 rifle at a gun store in Provo, Utah, in 2016. (George Grey/Reuters)

Gun manufacturer Colt announced Thursday that it will pause production of the AR-15 and other sporting rifles for civilian use, amid controversy over such weapons’ role in a spate of mass shootings.

The West Hartford, Conn. company attributed the decision to a decline in demand among civilian consumers for assault-style rifles.

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

The company said it would continue to fulfill its contracts to produce rifles for law enforcement and the military.

“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.”

At the same time, Veilleux reaffirmed Colt’s “unwavering” commitment to the consumer market and the Second Amendment.

Gun companies have faced increasing pressure as the body count from mass shootings, most involving assault-style rifles, has risen in recent years. New Jersey announced last week that it would stop doing business with gun manufacturers and retailers that refuse to comply with enhanced restrictions that go beyond federal law, including expanded background checks and prohibitions on selling guns to those convicted of domestic abuse.

“We listen to our customers,” Colt’s senior vice president for commercial business, Paul Spitale, said last week. “The whole basis for our reorganization was consumer feedback.”

“It’s not forever,” Spitale added.

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