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As companies cut ties with guns, firearms inventors turn to crowd funding for investment


WASHINGTON (Circa) -- Dick's Sporting Goods, Bank of America, and Delta Airlines. These are just a few of the household names that have taken a stand in the national gun debate, and firearms entrepreneurs are feeling the effects.

A variety of companies are beginning to weigh in, including the financial sector. Companies like Bank of America and Citi have adjusted their policies regarding what kind of clients they will do business with in the firearms industry.

"Companies are deciding who they want to associate with and who they want to fund and who they want to be involved with," said Andrew Patrick, media director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, in an interview. "They are witnessing a movement, as we all are in this country ... a social movement. And they’re standing on the right side of it."

The new policies have created something of a capital investment drought for gun manufacturers and inventors. Money is becoming harder and hard to come by, especially for inventors.

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Dick's Sporting Goods CEO: Stores to stop selling assault-style rifles and raise age limit

"There is a cancer brewing in corporate America. And, and the remedy, the, is a healthy dose of the free market. And that’s why we started Gun Dynamics," said Larry Ward, the chief marketing officer of Gun Dynamics, in an interview.

Gun Dynamics is a crowd-funding website created by firearms entrepreneur and inventors, for firearms entrepreneurs and inventors. It was started by Larry Lopata, an inventor who couldn't secure backing for a trigger he created for popular 1911-style handguns. He figured a crowd-funding site like Kickstarter would be a good option, but he soon found out most of them do not not allow firearms products. So Lopata figured he would create his own, and founded Gun Dynamics with his partners earlier this year.

"There’s lots of gun inventions, there’s a lot of cool gun inventions," said Ward. "Whether it’s, you know, something like a trigger or a scope or... a safety [mechanism], there’s lots and lots of ideas out there. And gun entrepreneurs need a forum to be able to raise money."

The gun debate has forced companies to pick sides, especially in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February. Some of the survivors, like David Hogg, became outspoken gun control advocates in the aftermath. A little over a week after the shooting, Hogg encouraged his followers to boycott companies that have ties with the National Rifle Association.

"It scared Corporate America, because, who does Corporate America sell to? 18 to 35 year-olds," said Patrick. "So the NRA and associations with these groups that have for a long time just pushed, or stood in the way and blocked stronger gun laws or pushed for laws that made us less safe, they are toxic to a lot of people who want people to buy their products."

The boycotts have been effective, especially in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Several companies cut ties with the NRA. Others, like Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods, adjusted their policies on firearms sales.

"They do have the right to do business with whomever they want, and they have the right to infringe on our gun rights. But as consumers, we have to be aware of that," said Ward.

Gun Dynamics is currently crowd-funding only a handful of products on its site currently, but Ward said it raised nearly $10,000 in its first two weeks; a number well beyond the company's expectations.

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YouTube bans gun sale, tutorial videos: report

"It's typically between 50 and 100 bucks," he said. "It's whatever people can afford. And the great thing about it is that's the idea of the crowd. So you don't need to go to an investor and give away 60, 70 percent of your business."

But it's about much more than just funding for Gun Dynamics' founders. They, too, want to be involved in the debate. Their site features stories promoting gun rights and pro-gun merchandise.

Patrick said he isn't surprised that some in the pro-gun community have turned to independent crowd-funding, and that he still expects companies to feel pressure to take a stand on the issue.

"No pun, but there's a dynamic to something like Gun Dynamics, that it's a very loud minority and they stick together and they are trying to save face in any way they can, [and] funding in any way they can," he noted.

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