by Doctor Science
In the wake of the Aurora movie massacre, I noticed a couple of things about the firearms market in the US:
1. The proportion of American households owning a gun has been dropping since its 1977 high, and is especially low among people under 30:
2. Firearms are extremely durable goods:
While the automotive industry also has to compete against its own products over on the Used Car lot, no other industry—not even the jewelry business—has products with such longevity as the gun business.A shrinking customer base for very durable products should mean that the market is contracting, right?
3. Since Obama was nominated, firearm sales have surged to record levels:
The last time American firearms sales spiked like this (1994), Uncle Billy’s Boys were about to implement the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Also worth noting: during the period when the AWB was in effect, long gun sales far outpaced handgun sales. In the last three years, the gap between sales of the two genres has narrowed considerably. Thanks to liberalized concealed carry laws, it looks like handguns will outperform long guns (sales wise) in 2010—for the first time since these records were collated by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. No wonder Ruger’s stock is on a high.
What this all says to me is that the gun market is being driven by buyers who are stockpiling weapons. They probably don't represent a very large proportion of all gun owners, but they are a large -- and, I suspect, growing -- proportion of all gun *sales*.
What people in the industry say is that it's paranoia:
Within the firearms industry there is a quiet adage that defies the logic of politics. “Guns sell better when a Democrat is in office.”In reality-land, we know that no elected Democrat, anywhere, is planning "to take them all away". The Earth is not flat, evolution by natural selection occurs, water is wet, Obama is a native-born US citizen, and Democrats do not believe all firearms should be confiscated. It should be obvious that this is paranoid delusion.
It is a well-known fact that Republicans support the firearms industry, while Democrats legislate and limit it. So why would firearms sell better under a Democrat (if the adage is true)? The theory is that when Democrats hold the power, gun owners are scared for their Second Amendment Rights, and go out and buy more firearms, worried that Big Brother is about to take them all away. When Republicans hold more power, no one worries too much.
But this paranoid delusion is currently the NRA's stock in trade. For instance, last year Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, explained:
how by not pushing for new gun laws, Obama actually revealed that he is engaged in a secret plan to "lull gun owners to sleep" so that they would not vote him out of office in 2012. LaPierre claimed that Obama's "strategy" is to "get re-elected" and then "erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights."A similar paranoid delusion can be seen in the Fast and Furious scandal. Fox News, in particular, promoted the idea that
the ATF purposely let the guns go to the bad guys in Mexico so that, after the ensuing bloodbath, the feds could justify a crackdown on assault weapons and gun shows.There are already similar conspiracy theories cropping up about the Aurora massacre.
So gun owners are stockpiling *more* guns, because they're afraid they might lose their guns (or the ability to buy guns they "need" in the future) -- a delusional fear constantly stoked by the NRA and its fellow-travelers. This is, IMHO, the chief marketing method the firearms industry is using for domestic non-professional sales, and it is doing a *bang-up* job. Seriously, who could have imagined that they could drive sales so high for the shrinking customer base of a durable product?
One consequence, I deduce, is that there is a growing number of firearms owners who are building *arsenals*: collections of weapons and ammunition that have no sane, legal use. And as you might expect, when normal, neurotypical people are encouraged to be paranoid and delusional, non-neurotypical actually insane people are going to be in the mix as well.
In the case of James Holmes, my amateur judgment agrees with that of clinical psychologist Michael Shaw:
I’m guessing we’ll discover that, within the past year or so, he either developed into a full-blown schizophrenic or that he suffers from acute depression with psychotic features.The point is that Holmes' behavior didn't *stand out* enough: there are too many gun owners who are acting like he did -- buying multiple weapons, mounds of ammo, and tactical armor for no sane reason.
Since the firearms industry is successfully using the NRA to gin up the home arsenal market, I don't know where a realistic path to reasonable gun control might be. My Senators can propose things that'll never get anywhere, Obama can come out against casual use of AK-47s, but unless the industry decides that paranoid-delusional marketing just isn't worth their while nothing will change. The NRA wasn't always in the business of making gun owners crazy with fear, but that's what it does now, and it works. If by "works" you mean "makes a lot of money for some people, and results in several random slaughters a year." And since gun sales increase after a slaughter, from a financial POV it works *really, really well*. It's probably their fiduciary duty.
My personal feeling of cynical, raging bitterness is well-expressed by Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker:
The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country—Canada, Norway, Britain—has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do—as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue.
Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it. In Europe not long ago it was the belief that “honor” of the nation was so important that any insult to it had to be avenged by millions of lives. In America, it has been, for so long now, the belief that guns designed to kill people indifferently and in great numbers can be widely available and not have it end with people being killed, indifferently and in great numbers. The argument has gotten dully repetitive: How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free?