German weapons firms find lucrative market in United States

German weapons firms have found eager buyers in the United States. Stats show that stock prices of US gunmakers rise after shootings like the one in Las Vegas.

In keeping with a macabre Wall Street ritual, the stock prices of major gunmakers rose by an average of 3 percent in the United States following Monday's mass shooting in Las Vegas, which left 58 people dead and hundreds more injured.

As has happened in the wake of other shootings, traders bet on a rise in gun sales following the shooting, as enthusiasts begin hoarding firearms in anticipation of possibly increased restrictions — though the market reaction was weaker than it was following high-profile mass shootings during the Obama administration, possibly because current President Donald Trump is a self-professed friend of the gun lobby.

With US lawmakers reluctant to take action on gun control, German weapons makers have begun to see the United States as a potential source of big profits.

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Shooting at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas

'We're the Porsches'

Heckler & Koch (H&K), based in Oberndorf, southern Germany, is currently building a $23 million (€19.55 million) gun factory in Columbus, Georgia, that will exclusively make "sports and hunting" weapons for the US civilian market.

In a statement, the company claimed that the new plant would bring 84 new jobs to the town over the next two years — many of which would go to German and US engineers. Meanwhile, all the firm's military guns would still be made in Oberndorf.

In May CEO Norbert Scheuch — who has since been let go and is suing H&K for wrongful termination — said the German government's increasingly restrictive export policies were forcing the company's hand: "If the politicians are practically preventing us from carrying out any sales to the Middle East, we have to look for alternatives. We will expand the NATO business and the civilian US market. We're the Porsches among the weapons in that market."

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But Scheuch also acknowledged that the plan had a preventive quality, with Trump having become president in part on a protectionist platform. "Because of the slogan 'America First,' it could get all the more difficult to export to the US," he told Der Spiegel magazine. "The Americans want local production."

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A gunmaker's ethics

Having become the first ever gunmaker to withdraw from exporting to the world's "crisis regions," H&K — once named "Germany's deadliest company" by activists — has made the US's civilian market a priority.

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The plan appears to have paid off: In 2016, its turnover in the United States rose by 48 percent, to €76.5 million — that represented 40 percent of its total turnover for the year. Sales appear to have dipped for 2017 so far.

H&K's Swiss-German rival, SIG Sauer, made the move to the United States decades ago. The company, based in Eckernförde, northern Germany, also has significant manufacturing interests in the US — specifically in the Northeastern state of New Hampshire, where SIGARMS, a separate company founded initially in 1985 to import SIG Sauer weapons, now makes a variety of handguns.

The shooter who killed 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June 2016 used a SIG Sauer MCX assault rifle made in the United States - as well as an Austrian Glock.


Shooter targets crowd in Las Vegas

Police say 59 people have been killed and more than 500 injured in a shooting in Las Vegas. Officers were called to a music festival near the Mandalay Bay Casino on the US city's famous Strip late Sunday after reports of a mass shooting.


People flee the area

The Las Vegas police department asked people to leave or avoid the area, while sealing off roads leading to the scene. People attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival reported seeing and hearing what they described as automatic gunfire coming from the Mandalay Bay hotel.


Gunman identified as local resident

Police identified the shooter as 64-year-old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock, but said they had no information about his motive. He reportedly had 10 different firearms in his hotel room, and police found more guns and ammunition in his house.


Police says shooter killed himself

The suspect fired from a window on the 32nd floor of the Las Vegas hotel into the crowd gathered below, said Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo (pictured above). Police said the gunman likely killed himself before the SWAT team broke into the room.


'It sounded like fireworks'

Some 22,000 people were in the crowd when Paddock opened fire, sparking a panic and a stampede. "It sounded like fireworks. People were just dropping to the ground," said one of the concert-goers.


Police search

While Las Vegas police said they believed the suspect was the sole shooter, Lombardo said investigators want to talk with Paddock's girlfriend and live-in companion Marilou Danley. The Australian woman is reported to be traveling abroad - and has meanwhile been ruled out as a "person of interest."


'Beyond horrific'

Several off-duty police officers had been attending the music festival and at least two had been killed, Lombardo said. Country singer Jason Aldean, who was performing when the shooting started, posted on Instagram saying his thoughts were with those affected. He described the night as "beyond horrific."


Deadliest mass shooting in US history

The Las Vegas attack is the deadliest shooting in modern US history, exceeding the toll of 49 dead in an attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016.


A moment of silence

President Donald Trump on Tuesday called the gunman a "very, very sick individual." He ordered the American flags at all public buildings across the nation be flown at half-staff, and observed a moment of silence on the White House lawn. Asked about gun laws, the president said: "We'll be talking about gun laws as time goes on."