Don’t Forget That Guns Are Different From Every Other Product That I Can Buy.

If there’s one thing that makes guns different from every other consumer product, it’s that the damn things just don’t wear out. And this lack of product obsolescence, planned or otherwise, impacts every aspect of the gun business and should alert my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community to be careful when they promote policies and strategies that have worked to lessen risk and injury from other consumer products (ex. automobiles) but won’t necessarily work when it comes to guns.

westinghouse             I own a Colt 1911 pistol that was manufactured in 1919.  The finish is perfect and it works flawlessly. I even have about 10 rounds of 45acp ammunition made in 1920 by the Remington factory in Bridgeport, CT in the original 20-round box which was shipped with the gun as a promotion and the ammo still works too. In other words, I am still using a consumer product that was made and first sold almost one whole century ago!

How many cell phones have I owned in the past 15 years? Probably at least ten. How many new cars have I purchased in the past 15 years?  I’m on my fifth one.  How many bags of potato chips have I consumed in the last month?  I’d rather not say.  The point is that virtually everything we purchase either wears out or is consumed and therefore has to be replaced. And the companies which make those cell phones, those t-shirts, those crummy I-Pads and everything else know that if they can get me to buy their product for the first time, they are usually looking at repeat business for the remainder of my life.

Not true with guns.  Last year our friends at Harvard and Northeastern made the astounding discovery that roughly 3% of all Americans owned roughly half of the privately-owned guns. Which works out to an average of 17 guns apiece. But if you buy your first gun in your 20’s and now you’re in your mid-50’s, which happens to be the average age of gun owners today, this works out to a gun purchase every other year.  Which is basically the same rate at which I have purchased a laptop – one every other year. But the laptops are junk, so is my droid, so is my GPS.  They all break or simply one day don’t work.  Guns don’t break.

About five miles from my office is the rubble of a factory, Westinghouse New England, which was built in 1915 and produced nearly 1 million Moisin-Nagant rifles that were supposed to be shipped to Russia during World War I. Then something known as the Bolshevik Revolution occurred, the whole deal went south, and the U.S. government which had paid for the tooling was stuck with the bill. The Feds ended up selling off the rifles as surplus guns to civilians for three bucks apiece. I happen to own one of those guns and it shoots just fine. The factory is rubble.  See the pic above. Get it?

Gun makers have never figured out how to overcome the fact that unless your product needs to be replaced on a regular basis, sooner or later you’ll go broke.  The good news is that every other Presidential administration since FDR has tried in one way or another to get rid of guns. And the political effort to regulate (read: prohibit) gun ownership has become, for the gun business, what product obsolescence is for everything else that we own.

I don’t blame the gun industry for inventing the idea that a gun can protect its owner from crime. Because at least criminal behavior is a constant factor which never seems to go away. So if gun makers can make people believe they should buy this particular product because it’s an effective way to deal with crime, at least there’s a chance that sales won’t collapse even if the current Administration has no plans to take away the guns.

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Want To End Gun Violence? Go To The Source.

Ever notice how the chief culprits are never identified or even mentioned in the great blame game that breaks out after every horrendous shooting?  Now don’t me wrong.  The unintended injury or death of any human being is horrendous, but we don’t register the daily, humdrum gun violence affairs; we wait until a really bestial, mass murder takes place to which we then assign terms like’ horrible,’ ‘unthinkable,’ ‘tragic’ and the like.  Then we play the great blame game.

For Republicans, the blame is now squarely fixed on something called “very’ very sick people.” Or at least this is how Donald Trump began his contribution to the blame game after the Oregon massacre last week.  It was basically what he and other Presidential wannabes said after the August 26 gunning down of two television journalists in Virginia; funny how these guys (and a gal) all agree that we should do a better job of collecting information about the crazies among us but, at the same time, we don’t need to extend background checks. So what should we do with all this new information that we’ll get when we ‘fix’ the mental health system?

      Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson

Everybody’s getting down on Jeb Bush for his cogent “stuff happens” response to the blame game, but maybe he’s decided that given his standing in the polls, he’d be better off not blaming anyone or anything at all.  And when all is said and done, I give Baby Bro a high-five for at least having the honesty to come right out and say what the words of the other red-meat candidates really mean, namely, that when it comes to gun violence, they don’t want to do anything at all.

But I’m not so sure that the blame game is generating anything more credible from the other side.  What was Hilary’s line? “Sensible gun control measures,” whatever that means.  And from the woods of Vermont, Bernie Sanders issued a statement which began, “We need sensible gun-control legislation.”  Wait a minute.  I thought that Hilary owns ‘sensible.’  Joe, who hasn’t decided yet whether he can afford to be unemployed after January 20, 2016, pushed back on the ‘sensible’ argument to remind us that the 2nd Amendment didn’t protect the rights of someone who wanted to own a “bazooka or an F-15.” I like Joe and I’d vote for him if I had the chance.   But what the hell was he thinking?

If you want the official blame-game entry you have to turn to Nick Kristof’s op-ed in The New York Times.  And what we get here is a remarkable and novel approach to gun violence, namely, that guns aren’t safe. He comes right out and says it!  After all, the British cut suicide rates by switching from coal to gas, the latter much less lethal, hence ovens in England are safer. “We need to do the same with guns.”  Want to make guns safer Nickie-boy?  Design them so that when you pull the trigger, out comes a squirt of H2O.

So that’s where things stand in today’s great blame game.  Everybody’s got a way to fix the problem but nobody’s saying anything reality-based at all. But recall I said in the very first sentence that the real culprits of gun violence are never named.  So I’m going to name them now and it goes like this: Beretta, Charter, Colt, Glock, H&K, Kahr, Sig, Smith&Wesson, Springfield, Walther –  I’m probably missing one or two more.  These crummy little companies make the products that kill and injure 100,000 Americans every year.  Want to tell me that guns don’t kill people, people kill people?  Go lay brick.

It’s not about background checks, it’s not about mental health, it’s not even about ‘stuff.’  It’s about a lethal consumer product being cynically and dishonestly promoted as the most effective protection from violence and crime. It’s not true, the gun makers know it’s not true, and it’s time we stopped looking elsewhere for something to blame.