Sturm, Ruger & Company (known simply as “Ruger”) is currently the second-largest gun maker in the United States in terms of domestic production, behind Smith & Wesson, and the country’s only other publicly traded firearm manufacturer. Founded in 1949 by Alexander Sturm and William B. Ruger, the company produces pistols, revolvers, and rifles today, including those made under the Marlin Firearms brand. The company also uses “Arms Makers for Responsible Citizens” as its slogan, but that belies the deadly consequences of its products.
For example, Ruger AR-15s were used in the Boulder, Indianapolis, and Sutherland Springs mass shootings, and larger-caliber Ruger AR-10s have now been recovered in two of the country’s deadliest mass shootings: the SR-762 in Las Vegas and the SFAR in Lewiston.
In addition, Ruger offers “state-compliant” AR-15s that are slightly modified to remain legal under select states’ assault weapons bans but can be just as deadly, and in the past, the company offered “pistol” versions — like the kind used by the Boulder shooter.
Ruger has capitalized on the popularity of AR-15s and other military-style assault weapons, not only by introducing more AR-style rifles — even after the recent Buffalo, Uvalde, and Highland Park shootings — but also “Tactical” versions of its older models and new guns that simply look like AR-15s. According to a House Oversight Committee report, “Ruger’s gross earnings from AR-15-style rifles also nearly tripled from 2019 to 2021, increasing from $39 million to over $103 million.”
These weapons are all designed to use high-capacity magazines, but during an interview in 1992, the late founder of the company, William Ruger, said, “No honest man needs more than 10 rounds in any gun,” and “I never meant for simple civilians to have my 20- or 30-round mags or my folding stock.”
Ruger’s current CEO refused to take any responsibility for the role his company plays in our nation’s gun violence epidemic or the crimes committed with its weapons during his appearance before the House Oversight Committee. He also refused to implement new safety features or condemn the marketing of firearms to “identified extremist groups” and “domestic terror threats.” Instead, he stated that National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun industry’s trade association, of which he is a board member, “does not control individual member companies or their ads.”
Ruger is among the top five manufacturers of crime guns traced by law enforcement. In data collected by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund from police departments in 31 cities, Ruger was the fourth-leading manufacturer of recovered crime guns in 2021, with 3,494 recovered firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) also found that between 2017 and 2021, Ruger was a top five manufacturer of traced crime pistols, revolvers, and rifles, representing between 8.7 and 11 percent of all recoveries in those categories.
It is unclear what measures Ruger takes to secure its supply chain to prevent its products from entering the illegal market. For example, information is not publicly available on whether Ruger requires its dealers and distributors to secure their firearms, flag questionable customers, or report the results of ATF compliance inspections and crime gun trace requests. In a 2019 report, Ruger asserted that it “expect[s] and require[s] that independent distributors…will comply with all applicable laws regulating the marketing, sale, and distribution of firearms.” But Ruger does not appear to cut ties with sellers who rack up significant ATF violations. A review found at least two Ruger gun dealers that have been associated with reports of gun trafficking.3See City of Chicago v. Westforth Sports Inc., https://everytownlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2021/04/Westforth-Complaint-Stamped.pdf.
Considering the lack of legislative or regulatory action in this regard, gun manufacturers should, at a minimum, adopt stronger public codes of conduct to hold their distributors and dealers accountable in securing supply chains.
Ruger is a publicly traded company, but when shareholders have confronted it about its role in the gun violence epidemic, those concerns have been minimized. In 2018, Ruger shareholders approved a plan proposed by a group of nuns and healthcare networks requiring that the company detail its plans to monitor gun violence and develop safer products. But in its response, Ruger placed the burden on law enforcement, claiming that it cannot “‘monitor’ the downstream use of firearms we manufacture” through its relationships with distributors, and that the company “does not have visibility through the distribution channel.”
Rugers helped popularize concealed carry, starting with the LCP, or “Lightweight Compact Pistol,” which was designed to be carried in a pocket, in 2008 because, according to the company’s then-CEO, “the growing number of states authorizing the licensed carry of pistols for personal protection by law-abiding citizens…cannot be ignored.” Since then, the company has introduced more compact handguns that are easy to hide on one’s person, including “micro-compact” pistols that can fit in a pocket while holding over 10 rounds of 9mm ammo.
Ruger promotes retailers who offer “shoot now, pay later” financing. Selecting “Buy Now” on the company’s website provides prospective buyers with links to online retailers, including Guns.com, which offers financing through Credova, and Gearfire, which has its own financing program. Buyers may not even need to make their first payment for 30 days.
Ruger is a leading industry supporter of the NRA. The company is ranked second on the NRA’s list of “Top 10 Industry Allies,” meaning it sponsors NRA events, donates guns for Friends of NRA raffles, and helps recruit new members. In 2009, Ruger joined the NRA’s “Golden Ring of Freedom” for donating over $1 million to the NRA.
In 2011 and 2015, Ruger also pledged to donate $1 to $2 from every firearm sold to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, “the lobbying arm” of the NRA. The “Million Gun Challenge” and “Two Million Gun Challenge” netted $1.2 and $4 million for the NRA-ILA, respectively.