The company opposed the original ban, but is less worried about an extension

WINDHAM (AP) – Bushmaster Firearms says its sales have increased by at least 900 percent in the nine years since a federal ban on assault weapons took effect, so it’s not concerned about a proposed extension of the ban.

The Windham-based gun maker has seen its revenue skyrocket since the 1994 law’s passage, erasing fears that the ban would put manufacturers out of business.

“We adjusted our business, as to what was allowed and what wasn’t allowed, and we’ve grown since then,” said Allen Faraday, Bushmaster’s vice president of administration. “Basically, what we did was going forward, we eliminated all of those items that made it a banned firearm.”

The 1994 law banned a series of specific firearm models. Bushmaster’s AR-15, a civilian version of the M-16, wasn’t on the list, said Faraday, and that allowed the company to make product modifications that helped it thrive.

Bushmaster fought the law until was passed, then began to redesign its AR-15 to comply with the new statute, he said, adding that the changes were all cosmetic and didn’t affect the gun’s performance.

Faraday said most gun manufacturers made similar changes, and he wasn’t aware of any business that would suffer if the ban were weren’t lifted as scheduled in September 2004.

Legislation proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and others has been filed to extend the ban indefinitely.

Bushmaster opposed the original ban, but the company is less worried about an extension, Faraday said.

“From our point of view, extending the ban is probably OK,” he said.

According to a statement from Feinstein’s office, assault weapons accounted for 8.2 percent of all guns used in crimes in 1993. In 1996, the latest date for which statistics are available, the number dropped to 3.2 percent.

Maine’s Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe have yet to announce their positions on the proposed extension.

The House version of the bill would strengthen the current law by including modified weapons.

Faraday said he wasn’t familiar with the House bill, but said “if it makes sense, then we certainly will consider it.”

Bill Harwood, president of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, said the ban should go further.

“It has had some effectiveness, but it’s not nearly what it could be,” he said. “Manufacturers are very, very successful at finding ways of getting as close to the line as possible. … Bushmaster’s a good example.”

Bushmaster made the gun that was used in the sniper shootings around Washington, D.C., last fall, and the company is facing a suit filed by relatives of victims.

The 77-employee firm makes semiautomatic rifles for civilians, as well as automatic weapons for the military and foreign government agencies.

AP-ES-05-14-03 0216EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.