(CBS News)–Gunmaker Colt Manfacturing said Thursday it is temporarily halting production of rifles for the civilian market, including the popular AR-15.
In a statement, Colt CEO Dennis Veilleux said the company is not permanently ending production, but believes there is already an adequate supply of sporting rifles on the market.
“The fact of the matter is that over the last few years, the market for modern sporting rifles has experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity,” he said.
AR-15 semiautomatic rifles and similar assault-style weapons have been used in a number of mass shootings in recent years, including at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March; a California synagogue in April; a Las Vegas concert in 2017; a Parkland, Florida, high school last year; and Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Colt will instead concentrate on fulfilling military and law enforcement contracts with its rifle manufacturing. Veilleux said the company has been awarded “significant” military and law enforcement contracts.
“Currently, these high-volume contracts are absorbing all of Colt’s manufacturing capacity for rifles,” he said.
The West Hartford, Connecticut-based company has received some criticism from gun rights advocates for moving away from the civilian market.
Veilleux said in the statement the company remains committed to the Second Amendment and is adapting to consumer demand.
A national gun control debate has focused on access to AR-15s and other assault-style rifles because of their use in mass shootings. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon in August urged lawmakers to consider restoring a federal ban on assault-style rifles, with the retailer announcing that it would end sales of two types of ammunition.
The shift followed two shootings at Walmart stores earlier this year that killed a total of 22 people. The assault weapons ban was adopted in 1994 and allowed to lapse a decade later.