Guns Have Become Too Big To Fail

Samuel Sklarin, JHU:

Another day comes and goes, and with it another shooting.  This one is as tragic as the last, yet somehow the flag being at half-mast is less meaningful now than it has been in the past.  So many mass shootings have made us numb to the sadness.  On November 5th, Devin Kelley shot into a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and killed 26 people.  According to CNN, even though Kelley had many serious incidents with the law, he was still able to obtain the weapon used in the shooting.  After sneaking guns onto an Airforce base, beating his wife and abusing his son, and killing pets he bought off Craigslist, how was Kelley still able to purchase weapons?  One clear reason is business.

Just as President Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans that the military was turning into an industrial powerhouse, there is a new problem that America faces: the Second Amendment industrial complex.  In the past couple of decades, American’s have become increasingly outspoken about their right to bear arms, ordained by the Bill of Rights.  This has forged an industry in the arms business, an industry I refer to as “the freedom business.” 

The freedom business gains its ground from those who argue shooting after shooting that their right to have pistols, rifles, and ak-47s cannot be infringed upon. To them, the tragedy of death by a firearm does not amount to the injustice of losing the right to own that firearm.  They also argue that the firearm industry creates jobs for Americans and is invaluable to the US economy.  On this point they are absolutely right. 

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation website, the freedom business has created over 300,000 jobs directly and indirectly in the US.  Their website also states that in 2017 the economic impact in the US of the guns and ammunition industry comes in just over $50 billion.  The industry also generates billions in tax dollars for the government each year.  So when a Congressman goes to the podium in front of their fellow Congress members and starts lecturing about the importance of having guns in a community, what do you think is going through their head?

In his famous 1961 speech, Eisenhower stated: “we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.”  At this point, the Cold War was heating up and the US felt that they needed to proliferate their nuclear arsenal.  The business of war became so entrenched in the economy that Eisenhower feared it would be impossible to do away with.  Similarly, the freedom business does not seem to be going anywhere soon.  A great deal of Americans rely on the gun industry to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. It has become so intertwined with other industries that their survival relies on the selling of guns.  Can this symbiosis be curbed?  Economic implications will continue to be a huge roadblock in the discussion of gun control.

It seems as if we as Americans have let the gun industry go too far.  We cannot back track into an era where the gun industry was unindustrialized; passing gun reform laws could potentially put thousands of people out of jobs.  Politicians have always been wary of passing gun control legislation, but it will just become harder for them to do so with each year it fails to happen: the freedom business is blossoming. People love their guns. 

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