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Cold dead hands: 13 facts about U.S. gun culture that speak volumes

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

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Cold dead hands
After last weekend's National Rifle Association annual meeting in Indianapolis, some facts and figures that speak volumes about U.S. gun culture:

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1. A study of 27 developed nations by two New York doctors found that the United States was the top country for firearms-related deaths, at 10.2 per 100,000 people. (Canada was 2.44.)

2. Shares of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. have spiked 4.4 per cent in the past five days, and have outdone the S&P 500 by about 53 per cent over the last year.

3. Among the items on the NRA annual meeting agenda: The "stand and fight rally," the national prayer breakfast, the first annual women's "new energy breakfast," the NRA Foundation's "wall of guns," a seminar on "methods of concealed carry," a workshop titled "Refuse to be a Victim," and the NRA youth rally.

4. For its third quarter, posted in early March, Smith & Wesson sales climbed 7.1 per cent. Said CEO James Debney: "We maintained our focus on increasing market share of our Smith & Wesson M&P polymer pistol family of products and thereby delivered handgun revenue growth of nearly 30 per cent, a solid result when we consider that the year-ago quarter reflected a surge in consumer demand."

5. Peak guns? This from Bloomberg News, based on the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives: "U.S. gun makers led by Sturm Ruger & Co. churned out a record number of firearms in 2012, government data show, continuing a trend of robust production during Democratic presidencies." That's over fears of the increased likelihood of stricter gun control by Democrats.

6. What do you get for the man who has everything, assuming he's got all the guns he needs? "The civilian market for silencers soared 37 per cent in 2013, when the total number shot up to nearly a half a million," CNN reports.

7. Also on the NRA agenda: A seminar on "creating a constitutionally centered estate plan," with information on how to pass on firearms to next of kin that "provides wisely for family and fulfills your wishes for a legacy of freedom."

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8. Here's what Brian Ludlow, who owns a custom-painted firearms business, told the Indianapolis Star: "I've lost track of how many pink and sparkly and purple and sparkly guns we've done for women."

9. A recall notice from Sturm Ruger on the SR-556VT rifle warns the "two-stage trigger system" wasn't correctly heat treated by an outside vendor and, thus, the disconnector (whatever that is), can wear out early: "This, in turn, can result in an unsafe condition in which the rifle delays firing (there is a delay in firing after the trigger is pulled) or doubles (discharging once when the trigger is pulled and again when the trigger is released)." That last one, of course, wouldn't necessarily be an issue as long as you're not looking down the barrel after you've fired but before you take your finger off the trigger.

10. How the Economist magazine reported on the NRA annual meeting: "It's not all ammo and AK-47s. Wine stalls and cigar booths were set up … Packing in Pink, a gun accessories firm targeting women, offered ladylike holsters and children's clothes. In short, guns are not a fringe fetish among disaffected Americans but part of its mainstream culture."

11. Here's how The Gun Store, a Las Vegas shooting range, advertises its "Ladies Package": "Why not test your skills and show the guys you're not a damsel in distress!" (You can also book bachelor and bachelorette parties, where "brides-to-be shoots for free."

12. From the Atlanta Journal -Constitution on the passage of new Georgia gun legislation last week: "House Bill 60, which passed in the final hours of this year's legislative session, allows Georgians to legally carry firearms in a wide range of new places, including schools, bars, churches and government buildings."

13. The NRA isn't a society structured on class. Everyone's welcome, whether upper middle class or redneck. In the something-for-everyone category on the NRA agenda: A seminar on "advanced sausage processing, BBQ and smoke cooking techniques."

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Twitter sinks after market
Shares of Twitter Inc. tumbled in after-hours action today as the micro-blogging service posted a wider first-quarter loss that it described as a "very strong" showing.

Its revenue surged almost 120 per cent to $250-million (U.S.).

Twitter lost $132.4-million or 23 cents a share, compared to a loss of $27-million or 21 cents a year earlier.

Its average monthly active users climbed 25 per cent to 255 million by the end of March, while those on mobile surged 31 per cent to 198 million.

Ad revenue soared 125 per cent to $226-million, and that from mobile accounted for 80 per cent.

Twitter also forecast second-quarter revenue of $270-million to $280-million, and adjusted EBITDA of between $25-million and $30-million.

For the year, it projected revenue of $1.2-billion to $1.25-billion, and adjusted EBITDA of $180-million and $205-million.

"We had a very strong first quarter," said chief executive officer Dick Costolo. "Revenue growth accelerated on a year over year basis fueled by increased engagement and user growth. We also continue to rapidly increase our reach and scale."

Consumers more responsible, Poloz says
The Bank of Canada says Canadians are "showing responsibility" when it comes to their swollen debt levels.

In his opening statement to the Commons finance committee today, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz reiterated that he still expects a soft landing for the country's housing market and that the key measure of debt-to-income will stabilize.

Still, he also warned again that housing is a concern.

"We are observing, anecdotally at least, an increased awareness of this risk," Mr. Poloz told the committee.

"Consumers are showing responsibility; for example, homebuyers who opt to buy less than they qualify for so they don't find themselves overextended if interest rates rise," he added.

"Banks, as well, are underwriting loans more carefully, ensuring that people can service their debts if rates go up. So, while the risk could be significant, we are comfortable that it is not outsized."

As for the broader economy, the central bank chief stayed with his forecast for average economic growth of 2.5 per cent this year and next, and then a dip to 2 per cent.

"Global growth should gather steam in the coming three years as the headwinds that have dampened growth dissipate," he said, adding the central bank expects world growth of 3.3 per cent this year and 3.7 per cent in 2015 and 2016.

Suncor gains
Shares of Suncor Energy Inc. climbed today after it reported record operating profit last night.

The Canadian energy giant's first-quarter profit rose to almost $1.5-billion, or $1.01 a share, from $1.1-billion or 72 cents a year earlier.

Operating profit surged to almost $1.8-billion, or $1.22 a share, from about $1.4-billion or 90 cents.

"Investments made at oil sands increased our operational flexibility, allowing us to produce higher margin barrels," said chief executive officer Steve Williams.

"Our integrated model combined with improved market access allowed us to maximize the value of every barrel we produced."

IBM increases dividend
IBM Corp. unveiled a gift to shareholders today, a hike of 16 per cent in its quarterly dividend.

The U.S. giant boosted the dividend to $1.10 (U.S.) from 95 cents.

"IBM has increased its dividend by over 800 per cent since the beginning of 2000 and doubled the dividend in the past five years," the company said.

"With the payment of the June 10 dividend, IBM will have paid consecutive quarterly dividends every year since 1916."

Sinopec in LNG deal
A liquefied natural gas project in British Columbia led by Malaysia's state-owned Petronas continues to gather momentum with the addition of a fourth Asian partner, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.

China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec) has agreed to take a 15-per-cent equity stake in the Pacific Northwest LNG project.

Sinopec has also agreed to purchase three million tonnes per year of LNG over 20 years, sourced primarily from Pacific Northwest, in addition to 1.8 million tonnes yearly in an equity offtake.

U.K. growth up
The British economy expanded in the first quarter of the year by 0.8 per cent, a "mildly disappointing" showing but still the best since late 2007 on an annual basis.

The gain was driven by services industries, according to the Office for National Statistics today.

"Britain's output gap remains sizeable, but its economy is on pace to lead the G7 in growth, which could push the Bank of England to be among the first central banks to tighten policy (we think the first hike isn't until 2015, but there's some speculation about a late-2014 move)," said senior economist Benjamin Reitzes of BMO Nesbitt Burns, who described the ONS report as "mildly disappointing."

"The first estimate for GDP is on the industry side, with all but three industries recording growth in the quarter; mining, electric utilities and agricultures weakened. Services were up a solid 0.9 per cent, while manufacturing gained 1.3 per cent, the best pace in nearly four years."

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