Florida shooting gun maker diversified through deals

American Outdoor Brands (AOBC), the company that manufactured the semiautomatic weapon that Nikolas Cruz is accused of using to kill 17 people at a Florida high school, has been diversifying by making a foray into outdoor products.

In 2016, when the company was known as Smith & Wesson, it paid $85 million in cash for Taylor Brands, a designer and distributor of knives and specialty tools.

Several months later, the Springfield, Mass., company changed its name to American Outdoor, reflecting a diversified focus. Then, last July, the company engineered a deal closer to its gun roots when it acquired Gemini Technologies, a maker of gun silencers.

As the Associated Press reported, Cruz is accused of using a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semiautomatic rifle, derived from Colt Manufacturing’s AR-15, during Wednesday’s shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Colt adapted the semiautomatic AR-15 from the M16 rifle, which was first used during the Vietnam War. Other companies began making versions of the AR-15 when Colt’s patent protection lapsed in the 1970s.

A National Rifle Association blog referred to the AR-15 as “America’s most popular rifle.”

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The stock of American Outdoor has dropped 19% over the past year. The consensus forecast of six analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters is for the company to report in the next few weeks quarterly earnings per share of 8 cents, compared with 66 cents a year earlier.

As FOX Business reported Thursday, under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, manufacturers, dealers and sellers of firearms and ammunition are generally protected from civil lawsuits related to criminal use of their products. The rule does include six exceptions under which civil suits may go forward.