I’ll admit it: I’m officially to the point where I believe that the gun lobby in America actually loves mass shootings. I don’t mean that as hyperbole either, I actually think mass shootings are very, very good for them and must be something they rejoice over. Let me explain a bit:
A good rule of thumb when evaluating motive is “always follow the money.” While it seems simplistic, in our world this is often a good place to look. Regardless of how you feel about guns and the use of violence, I’d ask you to at least consider what I am about to argue.
First, the gun lobby exists primarily to make money. They say that “money makes the world go round” and that’s quite true. Very few people work for free– financial gain is always a motive in business. Yes, we may be fortunate enough to do things we’re passionate about, but one cannot divorce money from the equation. The gun lobby is no different– if they weren’t making money, they’d find something else to do. Let’s look at some of the big-picture numbers as appeared in TIME:
“The Gun Economy
47% Percentage of Americans who say they have a gun in their home or elsewhere on their property, according to Gallup, the highest reported number in two decades
$6 billion Estimated revenue generated by the gun and ammunition industry in the U.S., according to an analysis by business research firm Hoovers
310 million Estimated number of firearms in the U.S., according to the federal government, which includes 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns
30% Percentage increase in employment in the industry between 2008 and 2011, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation
131,806 Number of federally licensed firearms and ammunition dealers in the U.S., about four times as many the number of grocery stores, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
5,459,240 Number of new firearms manufactured in the U.S. in 2011, 95% of which are sold domestically, according to the ATF“
As you can see, the gun lobby is a big industry that makes people a LOT of money. $6 billion a year? That gives the gun lobby 6 billion reasons to do whatever they need to do to protect their livelihood: selling guns.
Now, anyone who has ever been in business knows a second fundamental fact: you can’t succeed if people don’t consume your product. Thus, a key aspect of business success is becoming good at repeatedly convincing the public that they need to buy whatever it is you’re selling. This is basic marketing– convince people they have a need that only you can fill. This is how all marketing works, from cosmetic products to guns: those selling the product want you to truly believe that you must have what only they can offer. That’s how people make money and stay in business.
So here’s where we’re at: (A) the goal of business is to make money. (B) The initial key to success is convincing people they need your product. Which brings us to the third element: (C) Your business must actively work to mitigate any threat to profit.
Essentially, if people think you’re meeting a need and you’re making money, you want that to last as long as possible, so you must be aware of anything (like say, government policies) that might negatively impact profit. This third element explains why, for example, the tobacco industry tried to hide the fact that smoking causes cancer and resisted government regulations that threatened their profits. It’s also why some big businesses have reason to deny climate change and fight tighter environmental regulations that would take away from their profits. And certainly, it’s why America’s gun lobby will fight tooth and nail against even the most basic tightening of gun restrictions. In fact, they spend $28 million a year influencing both republicans and democrats to keep doing nothing.
The American gun lobby must love a good mass shooting– from a business standpoint, it’s a beautiful gift. Here’s the big picture and how they capitalize on it:
1. The gun lobby gets rich selling Americans a boat load of guns each year by telling them: “You should be afraid of criminals with guns. We can take away that fear, if you buy our guns.”
2. Americans use the guns they just bought to kill each other in mass quantities. Most go unnoticed because it becomes so commonplace.
3. Every so often a really impressive shooting happens, usually involving lots of dead children.
4. Gun lobby says, “See, we told you there was reason to be afraid. You should really buy more guns so you can feel safe.” Dead children are especially good because instead of “you’re not safe” the message is “your kids are not safe” and that’s an even more powerful motivator.
5. Gun lobby waits a few hours after one of the shootings and spreads unfounded fears that government is about to take away your gun rights. It is a brilliant marketing strategy that is called “creating a sense of urgency” — everyone in marketing uses it to try to close the sale. The gun lobby, of course, knows their message of “the government is going to take away your rights” is untrue, because they own all the politicians in government. It’s pure marketing.
6. Americans rush out to stores and buy more guns and ammo, which leads to more shootings, which gives them even more opportunity to say, “See, we told you so. If more good people would buy guns, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.”
7. Gun lobby laughs all the way to the bank.
And this my friends, is why I actually believe the gun lobby loves them a good mass shooting: it’s brilliant for business.
Do you really think a 6 billion dollar industry that survives by keeping you in fear, and sees dead children as a beautiful marketing gift, has any motivation to make shootings less common?
I can think if 6 billion reasons why they’d be happy for this to just keep on happening.