A New Group Promoting Gun Control? Yea, Right.

A new group has just popped up in the gun world.  It’s a 501c3 organization and its mission statement reads as follows:

“Reduce incidents of suicide by firearms, gun negligence through education and proactive programs that identify risks, raise awareness, and provide solutions to those who choose to own firearms responsibly and the public at large.”

colionThis has got to be another bunch of tree-hugging, gun-grabbing liberals, right? Wrong.  In fact, the Board of Directors reads like a standard group of pro-gun activists right out of central casting, including a a lawyer, John Renzulli, who defends the gun industry in negligence cases; Colion Noir, the NRA spieler who prances around in various videos proclaiming the joys of arming yourself for self-defense; the head of the national gun wholesaler’s association, Kenyon Gleason; and a self-proclaimed gun training expert, Rob Pincus, who sells a whole swatch of videos that are a cross between the usual shooting games combined with messaging which extolls the virtues of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

These new-found promoters of what Gun-control Nation likes to refer to as ‘gun sense’ also claim to have “created alliances between the leading experts and organizations in the Firearms and Mental Health Industries,” although the website does not contain the name of a single mental health organization or expert whatsoever. There is a Board member named Suzanne Lewis, who claims to be ‘very passionate’ about mental health issues; maybe she represents the alliance between guns and mental health. Nobody else on the current Board of Directors appears to have any connection to the mental health ‘industry’ at all.

On the other hand, this group, which claims to represent a ‘catalyst for change,’ does include several guys whose work, it can safely be said, has been fundamental in helping to embed the idea of self-defense gun ownership as a positive and joyous thing. The lawyer John Renzulli, for example, was the lead attorney in the Hamilton v. Accu-Tek case, which ultimately resulted in the gun industry being exempted from class-action suits. Want to get an idea about how Colion Noir pushes guns for the NRA? Watch his disgusting NRA video where he openly taunts the Parkland kids for using their 1st-Amendment freedoms to criticize the 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ of Colion and his friends.  The only alliance that this loud-mouth could ever make with mental health professionals are with the mental health professionals who still believe that solitary confinement works wonders on the criminal brain.

I would like to believe that this foray into the gun-sense landscape will quickly come to an end with a quiet, little thud. But I’m not so sure. The fact that a spokesman for the NRA, along with the head of a major, gun industry trade group and a lawyer whose firm participates in just about every litigation attempt to defend gun products have publicly stated their intention to “develop programs for suicide prevention, firearms negligence, trauma mitigation, and child safety,” tells me that the strident and uncompromising stance of the NRA may be coming to an end.

I don’t have any evidence for what I am about to say, but there is simply no way that this new group of pro-gun activists would be out there promoting a strategy right out of the gun-control playbook if they first hadn’t reached some understanding with the gun industry’s Powers That Be. After all, Kenyon Gleason runs the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) which means his salary is paid by the national gun wholesalers responsible for every one of those shiny, new guns ending up on the local gun shop’s shelves.

For the past thirty years, the gun industry has been promoting itself through fearsome messaging about a world without guns. Maybe the industry now wants to test a different approach, namely, a world without the unsafe use of guns. Anyone believing such nonsense would feel right at home living with the Martians at Area 51,  but maybe Sleazy Don Trump is building a luxury hotel there right now.

 

 

 

 

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A New Book On Gun Violence.

From My Cold Dead Hands 978-1-53614-574-8

This new book will be released shortly and will be available both in print and e-book editions.  The 60,000-word text is an attempt to provide both sides of the gun debate with what I believe is lacking in the argument over gun violence, namely, an understanding of the industry which produces the instruments of gun violence – the guns themselves.

Although I have no issue with regulating any industry whose products may cause threats to health, be it physical, financial or psychological health, in the case of the gun industry I find that most of what both sides claim to be the path to proper regulation is based on nothing more than what they hope to achieve, rather than what their regulatory strategies, if enacted, will bring about.

On the pro-gun side, there is simply no connection between letting everyone walk around with a gun and protecting society from crime. Of course one can always produce examples of how some likely crime was thwarted because a guy or a gal pulled out a gun in the nick of time. So what?  All this proves is that, at one moment, the existence of a gun might have made the difference in the outcome of a particular criminal event.

On the gun-control side, the evidence that keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands’ will make a difference is equally scant. You can run all the regression analyses you want to using this data and that. What you’ll get is a very tidy way to describe the behavior of two trends over time, and anyone who then claims that description should be accepted as causality at least should hedge their academic bets.

I hate to sound like Sarah Palin who still believes that her experience managing the family budget gave her everything she needed to figure out what to do about the federal debt, but I started writing about gun violence because many, if not most of what I experienced in more than  50 years in the gun business, simply did not square with what I kept hearing and reading from advocates on both sides of the debate.

The truth is, or at least the truth as I see it, is that the lack of knowledge about the industry that one side attacks while the other side defends, is borne out first and foremost by a basic failure on both sides to divulge what they really believe and think about guns. If I had a nickel for every time that a gun-control advocate like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton said they ‘supported’ the 2nd Amendment, when in fact, the last thing they ever wanted to support was the ‘right’ to ‘keep and bear arms,’ I wouldn’t still be working for a living. For that matter, the idea that we should allow every ‘law-abiding’ citizen to walk around with a gun because an armed citizen is simply exercising his ‘civil rights,’ is equally absurd.

Know how many Americans bought hunting licenses in 1958?  Try around 14 million. Know how many bought licenses last year? About the same. Meanwhile, over these sixty years, the population of the United States has grown by slightly more than 50 percent. Is it any wonder that the gun industry keeps itself in business, and also keeps the gun-control movement alive and well, by promoting guns as a real-live version of a video game?

For all the terror, grief and trauma engendered by mass shootings (and I am in no way understating the tragedies of such events,) for most of us, the United States remains a remarkably safe and secure place to live, grow up and grow old. Which is all the more reason why gun violence needs to be understood and controlled. Hopefully, my new book will serve as a small contribution in that respect.

 

Have Gun Sales Slowed Under Trump? Not As Much As You Might Think.

Back in February 2017, the first full month after Trump took the oath, the gun industry looked at sales numbers and began to complain.  On the one, Trump’s electoral surprise meant that gun makers didn’t have to worry about Hillary’s nefarious gun-control plans; on the other hand, with a pro-gun guy now running the show, fears about not being able to buy guys would subside and gun sales would also go down.

shows            And make no mistake about it, the heady days of the all-time gun-grabber Obama were now in the past. FBI-NICS background checks for February 2016 were 1,380,520 for all guns; background check numbers for February 2017 registered 1,199,692, a drop of 13%.  And between tax refunds, some cash for ploughing and a left-over bundle from X-mas gifts, February has always been a good month for buying guns.

But what about the rest of the year and the years to come?  There’s a reason why Smith & Wesson’s stock price was over $20 a share when Trump was inaugurated and is selling for around half that price right now.  The reason is the same reason that has always dominated the ups and downs of the gun market, namely, that most people who buy guns already own guns, and without new customers the sale of any consumer product will be largely influenced by whether current owners of that product believe they can continue to buy and own more of what they already have.

I have been in the gun business, one way or another, for more than 50 years. And I have never met a single gun owner who only owned one gun.  Maybe ‘never’ is too strong a word because there are certainly lots of households which contain a gun only because it belonged to grandpa and when he passed on, the gun represented some kind of family icon so nobody wanted to throw it out. But according to recent surveys, the average gun owner has 3 or 4 bangers lying round the house, and somewhere around 7 million gun nuts own, on average, 17 guns each. Right now I personally have somewhere around 60 guns within easy reach, which I don’t think is ant big deal.  I knew a guy whose house contained at least 300 guns and I suspect that by now he’s added maybe 50 more.

Why in God’s name would I need to own 60 guns?  You think my wife doesn’t own at least 50 pairs of shoes?  But a gun isn’t like a pair of shoes, right?  You can’t kill someone with a shoe.  So what.  What’s one thing got to do with the other?  Nothing, that’s what. Anyway, to get back to the gun business.

Using FBI-NICS checks as a proxy, gun sales in 2018 are running about 13% below 2017. There was a spike shortly after Las Vegas, which pushed up 2017 numbers, and another spike after Parkland, which did the same thing for 2018.  But this graph showing monthly background checks for handguns clearly indicates that the Trump bloom is off the Obama rose.

NICS handguns

              On the other hand, more than 3,750,000 handguns have moved between dealers and customers from January 1, 2017 through June 30 of this year, and if the estimates on the number of Americans who own guns is correct, then it may be the case that one out of every ten gun owners added an additional handgun to their collections over the past 18 months.

The point is that even though the gun industry depends for its existence on the same group of buyers buying more guns, the good news is that, by and large, gun owners still want to keep, own and buy guns. Which is why Gun-control Nation still has to figure out how to convince gun owners that they would be better off without their guns. Because as long as gun owners want their personal gun collections to get bigger, the gun industry will continue to sell guns.

Who Saved The Gun Industry? The Answer May Surprise.

 

The good news is that you don’t have to pass an IQ test to be a member of Congress. I wrote a column about one of the dumbest members of the House, Rob Bishop, who has introduced a bill that would strip the ATF of its authority to determine whether a gun can be imported into the U.S. based on whether it’s a ‘sporting’ weapon or not. And since the ATF has decided, lies from the gun industry notwithstanding, that AR and AK-style guns aren’t sporting weapons, those kinds of guns manufactured overseas can’t come in.

clinton             As you might imagine, the moment Bishop introduced his bill, Gun-nut Nation immediately began beating the drums to get the bill turned into law. But if Bishop’s an idiot, the NRA isn’t far behind, because if foreign gun makers can begin selling assault rifles and other ‘non-sporting’ guns in the U.S., you can kiss the domestic gun industry goodbye.

Back in 1989, George H. W. Bush issued an order which prohibited the import of Chinese assault-style rifles, in particular the SKS. The ban was temporary but was made permanent and expanded by Bill Clinton in 1993. The expansion of the ban meant that no gun of any design that had a grooved barrel could be sent from China over here.  Shotguns, yes. Rifles and handguns, no.

I owned one of those Chinese handguns. It was made by a Chinese company, Norinco, which employs more than 200,000 people and makes just about everything, including ammunition and small arms. The gun I owned was a copy of the Colt 1911 pistol in 45acp caliber, and when I say ‘copy,’ I don’t mean some cheap piece of junk.  I mean an exact copy, up to and including the traditional, Colt-style checkered grips.

Did the gun function as well as the original Colt?  Yes.  Did the gun sell for 30% less than the Colt? Yes. Can you still find the pre-ban Norinco 1911 floating around on gun auction sites here and there? And the good news is that if you need a part or another barrel, you can always pick it up from Colt.

I don’t think there’s a U.S. President who is hated more by Gun-nut Nation than Clinton because, as opposed to Obama, he actually got some gun-control legislation done. And he’s no arugula-eating elitist, Billy Boy’s just a good ol’ boy right out of a Southern trailer park, so he should have known better and just kept his mouth shut. But his 1994 assault-weapons ban didn’t just mean that gun makers had to change the AR design; it was also the first time that the government told the gun industry what kinds of products they could and couldn’t make. That’s not just regulating an industry – that’s telling an industry what it can and cannot do.

But the truth is that for all of Clinton’s attempts to hurt the gun industry, his ban on Chinese guns has probably done more to help the gun industry than any pro-gun effort being bandied about by the supporters of our current President, even though #45 may be on his way down the tubes. Because if Chinese gun manufacturers entered the U.S. gun market, by now they would be over here in force; building factories, producing ARs and polymer pistols and underselling every current brand.

Back in the 1980’s, another iconic American brand, Harley-Davidson, found itself unable to compete with Japanese bike makers and was only saved by a high tariff that Reagan slapped on imported Japanese bikes.  The company continues to limp along, its stock price climb since 1911 is about 30% less than similar-sized companies tracked by Standard and Poor’s. Trump loves to talk about how this tariff is a great example of protecting American jobs, but as usual he’s lying because the tariff didn’t ultimately help Harley at all. But at least the company’s still in business, which is more than what would have happened to S&W and Ruger if Billy Boy hadn’t stopped those Chinese guns from coming our way.

 

The Gun Industry Comes Up With A New Product For Your Health.

Since I registered for Medicare, a week doesn’t go by when I don’t receive something in the mail offering a hearing aid at a reduced ‘special for seniors’ price. So when I found out about a new federal bill called the Hearing Protection Act, I got really excited because I figured that the Congress was going to make it easier and cheaper for me to start hearing again.

silencer             But in fact this proposed law has nothing to do with helping me hear at all; the purpose of the bill is to make it easier to buy a silencer and thus make it harder for me to hear the sound of a gun being shot off, a noise which, by the way, is a good thing to hear because it tells me that someone may be using a gun in a dangerous and unsafe way.

It figures that the moment Gun-nut Nation comes up with a way to bolster sagging gun sales, they would want everyone to think that what they are doing will actually protect people rather than create harm. The same bunch has been peddling the same nonsense about the virtues and benefits of concealed-carry and the value of walking around with a gun.  But the problem is that gun sales have now slumped and industry analysts predict a rocky year ahead.  Shares of Smith & Wesson (now calling themselves American Outdoor Brands I guess because they own a company that manufactures saws for cutting down trees) have dropped from $30 to $20 a share – the Obama bloom is clearly off the rose and nobody sees it coming back any time soon.

But why would anyone imagine that just because people can now put a silencer on their gun that this will help the gun industry sell more guns?  Because putting a silencer on a gun isn’t the same thing as just changing the grip or adding a laser sight.  In order to mount a silencer on the front of a gun barrel you need to machine the outside of the barrel’s end so that the silencer will screw on and hold tight. If the silencer isn’t mounted exactly flush on these rails, you’ll probably destroy the silencer with the first shot and also probably break the gun. Now here’s where things get tricky, or sticky.

Most hunting guns have barrels that will take a scope or use the iron (open) sights that are part of the barrel itself. Which means for a silencer you have to change barrels which in many cases requires changing the gun.  This is also true with pistols, some of which have barrels that are easily swapped out, others are attached to the bolt. And every pistol that might take a silencer will need a longer barrel so that the part that is machined to accept the silencer will stick out from the front of the slide.  In other words, you’re buying another gun.

Funny, but this doesn’t seem to be explained in the advertising for silencers that I have seen online.  You would think from the promotion for silencers is that all you have to do is buy one, then go through the paperwork, fork over your $200, wait six months or more for the purchase to be approved and then away you go.  That’s not true. What this new law aims to do is get rid of the current licensing process (mandated since the National Firearms Act of 1934) and thus make the purchase of a silencer just as easy and simple as buying any other consumer product that you can put on a gun.

Know what? This law has nothing to do with protecting hearing. The purpose of this law is to give the gun industry a new product line that can be sold to current gun owners because nobody’s buying new guns.  The only protection being offered by this law is protection for the gun industry’s bottom line.

Want To Make A Million In The Gun Business? Start With Two Million.

Although it’s less than a month before the replacement of that notorious gun-grabbing President with a guy who really understands the need to carry a gun for self-defense, the real question is whether the next four years will be a milestone or a millstone for the gun industry, since gun sales have traditionally been a function of whether or not you can buy a gun. And if there’s a chance you won’t be able to buy a gun, you run out and grab as many as you can. But if there’s no gun ban on the horizon, oh well, need a new set of tires for the car.

trump5            The problem in trying to figure out whether the gun industry will continue strong under (ugh) Trump or begin to slow down is difficult to figure out because it’s next to impossible to get a real fix on exactly how many guns are actually sold.  Or to put it more exactly, how many new guns are sold.  Because remember, a NICS background check is conducted every time a gun goes across a dealer’s counter, and since most gun shops carry a healthy assortment of used guns, many NICS phone calls just mean that a gun already in the civilian arsenal is changing hands. Ditto for many of the guns which go from an auction website to a dealer’s shop, particularly for interstate sales.  Obviously, the civilian gun arsenal increased enormously under Obama – Smith & Wesson stock didn’t jump from $5 to $30 between 2009 and 2016 just because the company makes some nice-looking guns. On the other hand, that same stock has lost 30% in value since November 8th, which says something about the industry’s future prospects under a President named (ugh) Trump.

But if I had a nickel for every time a stock went up or down because market predictions turned out to be incorrect, I also could buy a new set of tires for my Subaru without selling one of my guns.  Remember when gasoline prices went over $2 a gallon back in 2005 and the experts were all predicting a $10 price by the end of the decade?  We’ll have some rough idea about the health of the gun market when Smith & Wesson releases its 10-Q for the quarter ending September, 2017.  But the number of new guns produced and sold each year is not necessarily an accurate measure of whether a pro-gun President like (ugh) Trump will help or hurt gun sales.

The real problem is trying to figure out the size of the potential market; i.e., how many people out there might be interested in buying a gun. Because when all is said and done, the success of any consumer product is based not so much on its replacement rate (consumers who already own the product buying a new one) but on the number of new consumers who decide that a particular product is something they just must have.

What apparently has happened under Obama is that the replacement rate for guns has soared – the same people who started out as gun owners in 2008 just kept buying more and more guns. These folks didn’t need to be educated on why Obama was a threat; as long-time gun owners they always knew that a gun ban might be in the works. And most gun owners had lived through the terrible Clinton gun and magazine bans enacted in 1994.

As for new consumers entering the gun market, I’m not so sure that the slow but steady decline in the percentage of American households with a legal gun will continue under (ugh) Trump, and I’m going to tell you why. Because what this election showed, if nothing else, is that a lot of people bought Trump’s message that government doesn’t work.  Which is exactly the long-time message used by the gun industry to sell self-defense guns. On the other hand, if Trump (ugh) makes government more efficient, do you really need to protect yourself with a gun?

              Wishing Everyone a Healthy and Happy 2017.

 

America’s Oldest Gun Manufacturer May Be Ready To Quit

Last week the Colt Firearms Company came within an inch of defaulting on its major credit line, which might have meant the demise of America’s oldest, continually-operating industrial enterprise. This isn’t the first time that the most iconic name in small arms has faced financial Armageddon.  As recently as 2003, the company reorganized itself in an effort to stabilize production of civilian and military small arms, then tried an IPO in 2005 which was withdrawn when the investment market greeted the plan with no money and a big yawn.

Financial problems started plaguing the Hartford-based gun maker within a few decades following its founding in 1835.  The company, like most gun manufacturers, experienced substantial expansion during the Civil War, but a fire that destroyed much of the factory in 1864, coincided with a drop in government contracts that did not reverse itself until the Army adopted the “Peacemaker” revolver in 1873, placed an order for 8,000 units which probably kept the company from oblivion.  Once the Single Action Army revolver, as it was known, became an official military sidearm, it quickly caught on with law enforcement units and civilians, a pattern that Colt would repeat with John Browning’s greatest gun design, the 1911 pistol chambered in the venerable 45ACP.

colt peacemaker                Between 1911 and 1945, Colt delivered more than 3 million pistols to the Army, shipped several million more to customers overseas and used the gun to promote all its pistol and revolver products to civilians at home. The Colt logo, known as the “rampant Colt,” became a fixture throughout the gun industry and beyond; the company name and logo may have been the most identifiable consumer brand not only in the United States but overseas.  The good news about the 1911 pistol was that it functioned equally well whether it was chambered for 45 or 9mm, the latter much more popular in Europe than over here, as well as a hybrid caliber known as the 38 Super which was favored by military and law enforcement units in countries south of the Rio Grande.

While Smith & Wesson took much of the domestic law enforcement market away after World War II with its K-frame revolvers (the chief difference being that the S&W had less moving internal parts, hence, easier to repair and maintain), Colt made up for much of this deficit in the 1960s when it took over Gene Stoner’s rifle design and began producing the M-16.  The rifle remained a Colt product until the late 1980’s, when production stoppages and quality issues at the factory forced the government to give the contract to the Belgian arms maker FN.  And while Colt continues to manufacture variants of this rifle for armed forces here and abroad, there are at least ten other companies that have produced some portion of the 8 million M-16s that are still floating around the globe.  Meanwhile, on the civilian side, the semi-auto version of the gun, known as the AR-15, has long ago become the staple of various manufacturing companies like Bushmaster and Panther Arms, both of whom have outsold Colt in volume of sporting sales.

What really sunk the company to a secondary rank among American gun makers was the five-year UAW strike at the Hartford facility which resulted in handgun sales slowing to a trickle and, frankly, a majority of those guns being considered poorly made.  But worse, the disappearance of Colt from the handgun market came precisely at the time when hi-cap, European pistols like Beretta, Sig and Glock started to take over the American law enforcement market and thence into civilian hands.

When I was a kid, every boy owned a Tom Mix or Roy Rogers revolver ; my grandson has his own I-Phone but couldn’t care less about a name like Colt.  In the consumer market it’s what’s new that counts.  Guns are an old technology. Could the Colt situation presage the future of the gun industry as a whole?