When I got into the gun business back in the 1960’s, if you wanted to buy a handgun, you bought a Smith & Wesson, a Ruger or a Colt. If you wanted a shotgun, you chose from Remington, Winchester, Mossberg or maybe Ithaca Arms. And if you needed a rifle to go out after a white tail, it was a Remington 700, a Winchester Model 70, a Savage, a Marlin or maybe you went high end with a Browning or a Weatherby just for kicks.
That was then, this is now. And thanks to the invasion of polymer into gun manufacturing, which completely obliterated the distinctive finish and design of each brand, the only thing which determines what gun goes across the counter in the dealer’s shop is price. If you walked around a gun factory in the olden days, you saw a whole bunch of craft shops operating under one roof. Now what you see is one guy sitting in front of a computer, locking a trigger, hammer and barrel assembly into a frame, then carrying the gun from the finishing room into the range where someone shoots it two or three times and it’s good to go.
Yesterday I received the monthly sales sheet from one of the national gun wholesalers, and I didn’t recognize the name of one company producing a gun being sold to retailers by this distributor at a ‘bargain’ price. Ever hear of a gun company called TriStar? How about an outfit called Canik? Maybe instead of a name-brand assault rifle like Bushmaster you’d rather buy an AR receiver from Aero Precision, Anderson Manufacturing or a company called Spike’s.
In all the hue and cry coming from Gun-control Nation, I have never understood why guns are the only consumer products which somehow escape being regulated both in terms of safety and use. Oh no, you say – we can’t regulate the gun industry thanks to the PLCAA law the gun industry received as a gift from George W. Bush in 2005. But as David Kopel has pointed out (and Kopel is no friend of the gun grabbers), PLCCA does not shield the gun industry from any liability if someone uses a gun in a ‘lawful’ way and injures someone else. In other words, after I pull out my Glock and shoot you in the head, I still have done nothing wrong if I can just convince the cops that I was protecting myself from a threat.
This idea that we should all be carrying guns to protect ourselves has a long and storied history in the United States, going back to when we were still a bunch of colonies operating under British Common Law. But Common Law doesn’t recognize the use of violence to prevent violence unless you happen to be wearing a Crown on your head. And the idea that ‘stand your ground’ laws reflect how White men stole land away from indigenous tribes is total nonsense because White men stole millions of square miles from indigenous peoples in Australia and South Africa and neither country has ever promulgated a ‘stand your ground’ law.
I am still waiting for the very first attempt by all my public-health researcher friends to explain how and why a majority of Americans believe that keeping a gun around is the best way to defend themselves from crime. As of last year, Gallup says that 37% of American homes contain a gun. Meanwhile, a majority of Americans also told Gallup they believed the country would be a safer place if more people were walking around with guns. Think the NRA is the reason why even many non-gun owners believe in armed, self-defense? It’s the other way around.
This country has a unique love affair with small arms, and I’m in the process of writing a book that will attempt to explain it but don’t hold your breath. I don’t even really understand why I’m a gun nut, so how could I possibly figure out anyone else?