I listened to an interview on VPR’s “Fresh Air” this afternoon, concerning the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
Apparently in the last few months, the town had been grappling with the question of whether or not something had to be done about the proliferation of informal shooting ranges in residential areas, and random semi-automatic gunfire for recreational purposes.
There had been such a growth in these activities that the town was divided between those who wanted more regulation and those who insisted regulation would violate their constitutional rights.
What I found arresting about this revelation was the fact that not even a week before the shootings, an almost identical controversy in Highgate, Vermont was reported on by Michelle Monroe in the Messenger.
As in Connecticut, locals are divided between those who are concerned for their own safety and that of their children, due to the risk of stray bullets; and those who feel they are well within their rights to use their land as they see fit.
There is heat in both communities over the issue; heat that almost never leads to tighter regulation, unless something like the Newtown shootings results in instant conversion to the cause.
But there is another interested party, an outside interest, which holds much of the power in these local skirmishes. That interested party is comprised of gun and munitions manufacturers, who enforce their hegemony over the gun debate through political activities of the NRA and similar organizations.
A gun manufacturer’s primary interest rests in selling more guns. Like the manufacturers of cars, clothing and potato chips, their fortune lies in convincing us that one is never enough.
But since the fundamental purpose of a gun is to kill, the best marketing scheme must necessarily involve ramped-up kill potential, coupled with a heavy dose of good old fashioned paranoia. From the multiple market saturations that have been achieved by the munitions industry, we can conclude that their marketing scheme is a lulu.
So while we’re distracted by the nearly impossible task of reconciling public safety with Second Amendment arguments; those guys are making out like bandits. Thanks to the double edge of paranoia (to mix a metaphor) their cup is overflowing.
On the one hand, gun owners are reminded endlessly that civilized people might at any time decide that enough is enough and put restrictions on gun sales. On the other, since their market saturation has been so successful, new recruits can always be had through the argument that the only way to be safe against guns is to have a bigger one.
The Cold War may be over, but the Domestic Arms Race is burgeoning.
We are missing our biggest opportunity to stem the tide of assault weapons: manufacturer liability. That boat sailed way back in 2005 when Republicans, with not inconsiderable Democratic support and under cover of post-9/11 paranoia, pushed through a measure to essentially indemnify the gun industry from all liability associated with gun violence.
That was stupid to the nth degree.
Until gun manufacturers have some skin in the game when it comes to gun-violence prevention, they will continue providing consumers with ever newer and deadlier toys. And they will continue to promote a culture of gun-worship and paranoia that will only worsen with time. This is their business model, and it works; just as “Joe Camel” and the “doctor” recommendations worked to make Big Tobacco the rich and powerful industry it was before Americans decided they’d had enough of lung cancer deaths.
It’s time to go back to some liability for gun manufacturers in the event of gun violence. If they don’t want us to limit the “right to bear arms,” then they should have to accept the victims’ “right to bear torts.”