Guilty Parts?

For many years, I have wavered between being judgmental or agnostic about who I do business with. I felt twinges of discomfort twice this past week.

I had a request for a quote on a Wickman multi-spindle screw machine from a customer who, among many other products, makes accessories for AR-15 semi-automatic weapons. He told me business is robust and they have tripled in size in recent years. He could buy a Wickman multi from someone else (it won’t be as good), but it is in my economic interest to sell him one if he will pay my price and meet my terms.

I felt chills down my spine last Friday when the news hit about the massacre at the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. As in most terrorist attacks such as Parkland and Tree of Life, the perpetrator used an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.

Would I be a guilty link in the supply chain if I sold a spare part for a screw machine that could have made a component for an AR-15 that had a remote possibility of being used in a terrorist attack? Is it my obligation to give a sniff test to every email inquiry for a machine or screw or bushing? If the inquiry is from Turkey, do I have to check if they support Erdogan or Assad in Syria?

What about Purdue Pharma, and the fabulously rich and highly philanthropic family that controls it, the Sacklers of Connecticut.

Purdue makes OxyContin, fentanyl, codeine, and a line of ADHD drugs. OxyContin is the most prescribed pain controlling drug in America. It has made the lives of millions and millions of people more tolerable during chemotherapy and after surgery.  For most users it is a marvelous drug, but for a significant minority of people who become addicted to it, OxyContin can be an agent of hell.

Purdue Pharma is under constant scrutiny. Its officers have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, and some have served a small amount of jail time. But the company keeps on making OxyContin, doctors keep prescribing it every day to patients who desperately need its pain reducing power, while the Sacklers get richer and keep giving away millions.

If you run an art museum, a seminary, or a hospital, do you tell the Sackler Foundation you do not want their OxyContin tainted money? Do you tell the doctors not to prescribe it when patients are in bone throbbing pain? If you make parts for the pharma production line that produces OxyContin in Wilson, North Carolina, do you opt out of the supply line and allow an Indian supplier to step in?

I am not a total agnostic on these issues. I am willing to sell a screw or bushing to the company that makes AR-15 accessories, yet I want to know what a Wickman screw machine is supposed to make before I sell one to an inquiring company. Hunting supplies are okay with me, and ammunition for the Army and target shooting is fine. AR-15 bump stocks are not okay for me.

Am I a hypocrite if a sling for an AR-15 is okay, but a bump stock is not. Am I so far down the supply chain that my screw and bushing are inconsequential? In business, we make these kinds of decisions every day.

How do you deal with such questions, or do you just ignore them? If you ran a charity, would you take the Sackler’s OxyContin money to do good works?

Question: Would you produce parts that go in AR-15s?






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32 thoughts on “Guilty Parts?

  1. T.B.

    Why not? Will you produce parts that go into an automobile, with the remote chance that someone could jump into one crazed out of their mind on drugs and/or alcohol (with total disregard for other people’s lives) and drive 80 mph down the wrong way of an interstate and kill someone? (just happened here the other day, killed a family of 4)

      1. Dennis Hilgendorf

        What if a company makes knives and someone kills someone with it? The company nor the knife killed, the crazed person killed. Where would anyone ever draw the line?


    I carried an M16 (AR15) for about 12 months, exactly 50 years ago. Okay gun when you kept it clean. I had a good use for it at the time. I have no use for it now. None. Hunting rifles, sure, go ahead. A pistol/shotgun in the bedside table for “protection”. It is in your house, sure. A rifle at the target range, sure. If you transport diamonds, get a permit to carry, sure. Otherwise, what reason? (PS, “Because I can” is not a reason). Look for pages and pages of response to your note, Lloyd.

    1. Doug S

      What reason should have been required of Rosa Parks for sitting in the front of the bus? In a society that respects natural rights, no reason should be necessary to exercise our God-given freedom.

  3. Misterchipster

    Why is it that we think we need to hold material goods responsible for our human actions? Spoons cause us to over eat, pain killers cause us to become addicted, guns cause us to kill…….we need to blame the person. Deflecting the blame to an “action” or “item” will NEVER cure any of our problems. The common element in all our problems is the human, we need to wake up and address the REAL problem.

  4. Jim

    I don’t see a legitimate comparison between OxyContin and an AR15 that makes sense to me. OxyContin has a useful purpose for many people suffering severe pain. An AR15 for use by people other than the military makes no sense.

    1. r in nyc

      Truly hope there is never a home invader in your house!!!

      Remember when seconds count police are just minutes away…

      1. Jim

        In that case a handgun is sufficient. I’ m not against gun ownership; just think there are plenty of other firearm choices that don’t fire 10 rounds a second.

  5. John Griner

    On the lighter side I like the joke of asking the lady (or boy – lol) would you sleep with me for 1 million dollars? There is generally a long pause while they consider the proposition. Then the next question is: Will you sleep with me for a dollar? Answer: What kind of lady do you think I am?
    Rebuttal: We’ve already established that, we are just negotiating price.
    My Point; We all have our price depending on the context.

    On the darker side I see how we (I’m including myself) follow society norms and authority figures. Could I have been an active participant in the holicost by following orders or perhaps a non active participant by looking away?
    It’s disturbing ….

    LLoyd: You ask tough questions…. John

  6. Kelly

    That’s an easy one– yes. For all the reasons already mentioned. Just one comment about knives; we should out law grass machetes and long knives including swords. From where I sit I see a lot of knife issues in London and Europe. There just might be a parallel between knives and guns, just saying. Loyd you may want to have a questionnaire form when your potential customers are looking at your machines. It would help them greatly in picking a vendor. I know I would choose wisely.

    1. fred f

      Yes, and hopefully when he’s trying to decide if the potential customer is going to use the machines for ‘up and up’ purposes, they will in fact be honest enough to not lie about their intentions on that questionnaire. Mostly not worth the paper it’s printed on.

  7. Jay Sauder

    The Point: An AR-15 is designed to kill as many as possible in the shortest amount of time. So why would a normal citizen need one?
    The Second Amendment reads:
    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
    Most people skip the “well regulated” part.
    A citizen at home with an AR-15 is not part of “well regulated” militia.
    Do what you think is best, Lloyd.

    1. T.B.

      However, the well regulated part does not mean well regulated by the central government. That is the whole point, the main purpose of the right is to protect the individual people and the militia which is necessary to protect it against that same government if it becomes oppressive. Ask the people in the Jewish ghettos in Germany and the 20 million people murdered by Stalin how many guns they had in their home.

    2. GKL


      If that’s the case, then the AR would be full auto, it is not. Full auto was outlawed, except for expensive, rare cases, years ago.

    3. Fritz

      “Well regulated”… Have you considered the context of what “well regulated” meant at the time that it was written? Context at the time was a “well regulated shotgun trained both barrells to shoot in a straight line”…

      Well trained… not necessarily well restricted, or choked.

    4. Bill Badura

      Responding to Jay Sauder:
      The Bill of Rights pertains to individuals. The Constitution spells out state rights
      elsewhere. I have always believed that one word was left out of the second amendment that would have made the obvious more clear. Put “Although” at the beginning.
      As to your first point; I have absolutely no use for a baseball bat. People have been beaten to death with them. And I would never suggest that they should be banned.
      Some people enjoy using them.

  8. GKL

    Can and do produce gun accessories. There are items and customers I turn away based on the owner’s decisions whether based on her views or how it will affect the company. I guess you have to do what is “right” for you and what you’re comfortable with; as the parts/ customers we turn away always find someone to produce what they want.

    I’m not going too deep into the AR15 debate, but M16 and AR are not the same thing. Until these are deemed illegal, the choice of ownership by a legal, law abiding citizen is their business and nobody else’s. JMO

  9. Randy

    When I started in this business 40+ years ago I found what I thought was a great potential customer making “water pipes”, lots of big volume aluminum and brass components. I told my dad, who asked me if I knew what it was used for. Once he told me it was for drugs, he told me that we would never make ammunition or drug paraphernalia. We have maintained that, even recently when asked to quote vaping equipment parts. I don’t have a problem with those decisions and appreciate that my father set his rules.

    I agree that the human factor is what leads to bad choices, but there is no “really justifiable reason” for a semi or fully automatic weapon if you are not in the military.

  10. Bob Ducanis


    What if the guy just showed you a print of a part that he thought would be a good fit for being produced on a Wickman multi-spindle? Maybe that part goes into an AR-15 (commercial) or a M-16 (military) or maybe it goes to a dish washer or an automobile? Does knowing what the end use is change your opinion? If you were a conscientious objector would you not sell a machine to a defense contractor? Possibly you would be required to refrain from selling them a machine. What if they just want a machine to produce metal parts without you knowing the end use? What if the guy wanted a machine to produce hydraulic fittings and then later decides he can make more money producing AR-15 parts?

    My former firm produced vast quantities of bomb fuze casings during the Vietnam war to the tune of 19,000,000. This was for the big stuff at the time….up to 750lb bombs….included M117, Mk-81 and Mk-82. We also made the firing pins and the arming vanes. It is quite possible that your firm sold us a machine or two back in the day to support this program.

    Nice question to elicit some interesting comments. Quite the conundrum.

  11. allen

    You might want to decide just how far your responsibility and culpability extends. Leaven that consideration with some thought to those who depend on your judgment.

    Oh, and in case you think you’ve got problems I just read about a charter school chain that accepted/accepts money from the Sackler family trust – the Oxycontin folks.

    Should they turn that money down knowing that it’ll make it tougher to help the kids who were born with two strikes against them? How many of those kids will end up in jail or dead because of an excess of high-mindedness?

    My suggestion is you use the “gag” test.

    If doing business with someone causes you to lose your lunch you might want to take a pass but if there are considerations that make you struggle mightily to contain the reflex, so mightily that you succeed, then cash the check.

    Then move on. You’re a human being as fallible as any other so if you’ve done your best to live up to your views that’s the most any reasonable person can expect of you including yourself.

    Related is my effort to develop a moral micrometer which will precisely measure the factors of such questions making it easy to answer them.

  12. Lloyd Graff

    Hi Bob,
    I like to ask the hard questions that I really care about. I really do not want to feel that I contributed to a company that made a part of a weapon that could have help facillitate a mass killing. I have a right to make that choice and I will choose to make it.
    Yes, I sold lots of machines used in Vietnam and I was cool with it then. But if I facilitated Agent Orange and knew about it then, I would have been torn. Life is not simple.
    OxyContin is a tough issue, too. The Sacklers have become billionaires and some of that money is dirty, because they were complicit in its overuse. But if I were a nonprofit doing good work, I would accept their charitable contribution.

  13. r in nyc

    Did we see today’s headline?

    “Senegalese man hijacks Italian school bus and threatens to kill children on board before setting the vehicle on fire”

    I wonder how bad the manufacturers of parts for that bus feel. And what of the local petrol companies peoples’ feelings.

    This is all about self censorship campaigns to stifle debate. We are talking about a LEGAL product. Shall we BAN tobacco, alcohol, ATVs, motorcycles and an endless list of dangerous LEGAL products?

    As for a bit of history, The Bill of Rights is a list of NEGATIVE government rights to protect We the People!
    Government SHALL NOT prevent free speech, free press, protection of oneself from harm including government, religion, safe and secure home and documents, unfair trails, etc…
    And the Second Amendment is supposed to be the ultimate check and balance on that.
    Learn some history for goodness sake!

    In England gun crime, blinding acid in the face crime and knife crimes are rampant and out of control.
    The have a solution:
    ‘Save a Life, Surrender Your Knife’
    look up the knife drop boxes all around England, OMG they are lost!
    guess how that’s working out.

    You cannot control all EVIL and INSANITY!!!

    To many speak of this “AR15” as experts with tons of misinformation and half truths.
    A few facts
    AR stands for “ArmaLite Rifle” the first manufacturer of the AR15. NOT ASSAULT RIFLE!!! another lie of fake news
    It is SEMI automatic. You must pull the trigger for EACH bullet. It is NOT A MACHINE GUN – the M16 is and its exclusive to military and law enforcement. .
    The M16 and AR15 .223/5.56x45mm bullet was not exactly designed to kill, but to wound severely.
    In war it takes a lot more resources dealing with wounded than with the dead, so it is better to wound. Many states outlaw the use of AR15 bullets for hunting because it cannot swiftly, effectively and humanely kill your dinner.

    Again I must state, we should all know that the AR-15 is a collection of simple machined parts. Detailed instructions, assembly drawings and blueprints for this and most guns are readily available online. (download them now, I have – just saying)

    Any decent tool & die maker or seasoned machinist should be able to make as many guns as they want.

    Hobbyists can get a decent CNC mill kit (supply your own computer) or 3D printer for under $1000. The internet has loads and loads of plans and FREE downloadable programs!

    The genie is out of the bottle!

    You may say that we should ban and block these things from the internet?
    Well I haven’t seen a good book burning in many years…

    Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    Let us all be sheep and beholden to the government to protect us from the wolves, evil and demented.

    I will protect my family, friends, and self by whatever means necessary!

    On that note, has anybody heard or seen how things are in the once crown jewel of South America – Venezuela? It could never happen there or here – right?

    Keep your powder dry and stay safe!

    1. Cam from Concord

      r in nyc. Right on! Excellent points all!!!!

      And I’m a little surprised to read such incredibly logical views from what appears to be a New York City resident. There’s a glimmer of hope for New York after all.

  14. Ed Gnifkowski

    I didn’t see anyone parse the difference between selling an
    individual a metal working machine and the use an individual puts that equipment to.
    I made special valves for many years and in some cases had no idea the end use. In one case a special valve was sold to an oil field and later turned up making plastic wrap.
    go figure.

  15. Cam of Concord

    Point no. 1. My understanding is that US citizens have the Constitutionally protected right to bear arms because our framers wanted to allow us the ability to protect ourselves from our own government. Back then the common soldier had a musket. Now they have an automatic weapon.

    Point 2. Gun registration allows the government to know who has a gun. And if the government is up to “no good”, they can use the data base of registrations to come to your house and confiscate them.

    I recommend extreme caution in allowing our government to meddle in our right to bear arms. It’s our last line of defense to remain free. Study history and you’ll know what I’m talking about.


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