By Michael Bryan
Consider for a moment what you would want as a manufacturer and merchant of firearms: to sell lots and lots of guns, as many as you can, to anyone who can pay for them. That’s simply what every business wants. I claim that, at base, all the behavior of “gun rights” activists reduces to this basic business drive. Oh, they may claim more high-minded motives, but to the people who actually bankroll that activism, this is all that matters.
So, how does one effectively stimulate gun sales? Ads are not generally effective, nor frequently accepted, except in certain niche markets. How to reach the widest audience most effectively? Fear. Fear motivates most gun sales: fear of others different than you; fear that someone else will bring a gun to bear on you; fear that someone will hurt or kill you; fear that the government will come and take away your guns. Do your best to scare the shit out of everyone, and many of them will buy a gun. Do you recognize the tactics and rhetoric of the gun lobby among all these fears?
More guns, more easily available is also a wonderful motivator of gun sales. Paranoia over all the guns out there in the hands of bad guys is also a great sales motivator. The gun industry actually sells a product that stimulates its own sales once a critical mass of guns is in the hands of the public. And, boy, have we reached critical mass in America. The more there are, the more there will be; Americans are in an arms race with ourselves. You might think that nearly a gun for every American man, woman, and child would be enough guns, but the wheels of industry must turn, so we must have more guns. So scaring the crap out of their best customers, and encouraging their paranoia, is best business practice for the gun makers and merchants.
Obama is coming for your guns! Mexicans are coming to rape your women! A black man is coming to take your property and kill you! Be afraid! The more fear is abroad, the better are sales. But no one seriously wants or expects to take away law-abiding folks guns – we just want to limit the market to non-crazy, non-homicidal, non-wife-beating, non-terrorist, non-felon folks who don’t want that gun in order to go hunting strangers or intimate partners. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Well, if you are a gun maker or merchant it sure is too much; they want the biggest possible market with the least transactional friction possible – thus, as little regulation of gun sales as possible. No high ideals, just commerce.
The grand irony is that all the gun violence resulting from guns in the wrong hands makes normal people long for safety. That desire for safety make us more amenable to more police, and more heavily armed police, and more abrogations of civil liberties to keep tabs on all those dangerous folks with guns. Thus the police state that 2nd Amendment folks say they wish to guard against is brought ever closer to fruition by the gun merchants’ own business model.
We need to regulate gun sales from a standpoint of public health, safety, and security, and not from the paranoid and mercenary viewpoint of the gun merchants hiding behind the window dressing of 2nd Amendment maximalism. Otherwise, this spiral of death will keep grinding up our citizens and our children. We need leaders who will cut through the nonsense and speak the truth about the gun industry and advocate for common-sense gun regulations. Don’t vote for leaders who don’t speak out on this topic; they are in fear of the gun merchants’ lobbying, and they aren’t really leaders.