Assault weapons manufacturer is upset that school shootings are costing it money

A disturbing focus on the bottom line.

CREDIT: Getty Images
CREDIT: Getty Images

Vista Outdoor, a major manufacturer of assault weapons, is complaining that school shootings, particularly the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, is having an adverse impact on its profits.

The complaint was buried in a filing that was made with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday. The filing, called a 10-K, reviews the company’s financial performance over the last year and discusses “risk factors” for the future.

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Vista Outdoor bemoans online activity “in the wake of tragic shootings at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February 2018” that may have “an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and or cash flows.”

The company blames “a substantial increase in the use of social media platforms, including blogs, social media websites, and other forms of Internet-based communications, which allow individuals access to a broad audience of consumers.”

According to Vista Outdoor, “[c]onsumers value readily available information and often act on such information without further investigation and without regard to its accuracy or context.” The company did not elaborate on examples of inaccurate information, but added that “[t]he harm may be immediate without affording us an opportunity for redress or correction.”

In the case of the Parkland shooting, Vista Outdoor cites “a campaign…launched on social media seeking the boycott of certain Outdoor Products brands because of their association with the Company and its brands that operate in the shooting sports industry.”

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Vista Outdoor sells assault rifles under its Savage brand but also non-shooting brands like Giro, a popular brand of bike accessories and Camel Bak, which makes water bottles. It has attempted to marry these brands under a unified idea of the Vista Outdoor “consumer.”

Image from a 2016 Vista Outdoor SEC filing
Image from a 2016 Vista Outdoor SEC filing

After the Parkland shooting, REI, a major outdoor retailer, announced it would suspend orders from Vista Outdoor’s brands, including bike helmets and water bottles, because of their connection with assault rifles. The company announced in early May that it was considering selling its gun manufacturing brands.

At the same time, the company is still bullish on its “ammunition, hunting and shooting accessories” business and has no plans on divesting from brands that produce those products. In fact, the company’s CEO promised “breakthrough new products” in the ammunition category.

About half of the company’s revenue comes from gun products. Vista Outdoor had one of the largest displays at the NRA convention this month.