The day many of us thought we’d never live to see has finally arrived.
In recent years, while mass shootings have dominated both headlines and cemeteries, calls for gun reform have escalated to deafening levels. As frustration and fears mount, and as organizations like the NRA have kept a stranglehold on maintaining the status quo, an unlikely hero has arrived in the form of Colt—the gun manufacturer responsible for producing the AR-15 assault rifle.
Colt, the manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle, has announced it’s exiting the consumer rifle market as demand for high-powered, semi-automatic guns wanes.
The consumer market for rifles has “experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity” and there’s too much supply of AR-15 guns on the market to justify making more, the company said in a statement. Colt will still manufacture other consumer guns, including pistols and revolvers, and it will continue to expand its network of dealers.
Yes, you read that correctly: AR-15s will no longer be produced for consumers outside of the military or law enforcement. And, as it is the weapon of choice in an increasing number of mass shootings, including shootings in Parkland, Fla., Newtown, Conn., and Las Vegas, this is a pretty damn big deal—if not entirely unexpected.
But is Colt making this move purely for altruistic reasons? Or is there something else at play?
“The public is getting very alarmed about what’s happening with assault rifles in the hands of potential mass shooters,” John Donohue, a Stanford Law professor and expert in gun policy, told Time. “Colt may just be feeling better to get out of that particular market, and they’re offering this purely economic manufacturing argument rather than addressing the political realities right now as the justification for this decision.”
Timothy Lytton, a Georgia State University law professor and author of Suing the Gun Industry, echoed Donohue’s sentiments.
“They don’t want to be associated with a gun that’s becoming increasingly viewed as a shabby crime gun, when their brand is supposed to be bigger,” he also told Time. “The danger for them in this—and this is something that they’re well aware of in their messaging, is that when gun companies tend to respond to this sort of pressure, there’s a huge backlash from the gun rights community.”
But regardless of their motives, Colt wants to make it explicitly clear where they stand on the Second Amendment.
“Colt has been a stout supporter of the Second Amendment for over 180 years, remains so, and will continue to provide its customers with the finest quality,” Dennis Veilleux, president and CEO of Colt, said in a statement.
Next on the list? The AK-47.