Is Ruger ideologically pure enough?
Ruger is not politically pure enough according to one of my readers. But what does that mean, and is it a valid position? Is Ruger, or any company for that matter, ideologically pure enough for a “true” supporter of the Second Amendment?
A concerned reader responded to an article I wrote about Sturm, Ruger & Co. In the article, I reported that Ruger plans to open a third manufacturing facility for up to 10 brand new gun lines. I also reported the company wants to locate the new plant in a gun friendly community. The commenter stated, in effect, that the company was not politically pure enough for his dollar because the company’s headquarters are in Connecticut.
Connecticut is the home of many gun companies including Stag Arms, Mossberg, Charter Arms and Colt. The state is also home to other shooting industry associations including the National Shooting Sports Foundation, organizers of the annual SHOT Show. It is safe to say the state is rich in gun history.
However, Connecticut recently enacted new gun control measures. These new laws, like all gun laws, seek to abridge the rights of lawful gun owners. For this reason, some gun owners are encouraging gun companies to abandon the state for less-restrictive states like Texas or Montana. Such things are not easily accomplished, and certainly involve significant cost, assuming the company elects to take such action.
Some companies might dig their heels in and fight for gun rights where they are instead of retreating to another state to fight a new battle there. Other companies might take a purely business view of the regulations and make a determination about what makes the most sense for the bottom line and the shareholders to whom they are answerable.
Questioning the motives of Sturm, Ruger & Co. is nothing new. There are many who claim the company is anti-gun, or at least anti-some-guns, because of the actions of the company’s founder, William Ruger Sr., in the last century.
In the late 1980’s, there was mounting pressure for increased gun control and the restriction and banning of certain types of firearms. Frankly, the argument and supposed “need” for more regulation was the same as today’s tired rhetoric. At that time, Ruger Sr. was vocal in his support of a ban of magazines in excess of 15 rounds.
One of the more egregious statements attributed to Ruger Sr. is “No honest man needs more than 10 rounds in any gun.” Understandably, many people have taken offense to such a notion. Unfortunately, Ruger Sr. made other, similar statements that left gun owners feeling betrayed.
There is debate on why Ruger Sr. took this position. Some say he wanted a magazine restriction in an effort to avoid a ban on semiautomatic firearms like the company’s popular Mini-14 rifle. People might liken this to Neville Chamberlain’s attempt to appease Germany in the days leading up to World War II.
Others claimed Ruger Sr. was financially motivated, believing he was trying to keep the increasingly popular Glock 17 from stealing more of his business. The Glock 17 was one of the very few handguns at the time that held more than 15 rounds in a magazine. The Ruger company had a portion of the law enforcement market, but Glock was making huge gains with police agencies in the late 80’s and into the 90’s.
Whatever the reason, Ruger Sr. put his name and weight behind legislation to restrict magazine capacity, and supported other restrictions as well. For that reason, the Sturm, Ruger & Co. name was tarnished forever in the minds of some gun owners.
But is that fair?
Ruger Sr. died more than 10 years ago, and had relinquished control of the company years before that. The company’s current CEO, Michael O. Fifer, has been in place since 2006 and has been company president and CEO since 2008.
Under Fifer’s leadership, the Ruger company has experienced remarkable growth, both in terms of finances and in gun production. The company not only produces small compact handguns suitable for concealed carry, but they now manufacture and sell their own AR-style rifles. You can buy 30 round AR mags and 25 round 10/22 mags directly from the company. None of this would have happened with Ruger Sr. at the helm.
Additionally, Sturm, Ruger & Co. is an industry leader in getting gun owners involved in the current debates on gun control. I have repeatedly seen and heard company representatives pushing initiatives such as the company’s online tool for contacting elected representatives about the issues and then archiving the actual responses from those representatives.
The Ruger company also donates a substantial amount of money to support gun lobbying efforts. For example, in 2011 the company ran a promotion to donate $1 for every gun produced to the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). Those are the folks making an impact on Capitol Hill. The goal was $1 million. They wound up donating $1.25 million.
Now the company is looking to expand production, and one of the requirements for the new facility is that it be located in a gun friendly community.
The company cannot alter the past, but it has clearly taken a different path than the one Ruger Sr. took. Only time will tell if the company moves the corporate offices to another state. This might not make them pure enough for some people, but the company is certainly pulling in the same direction as the rest of us. That is good enough for me.