Think That Gun Owners Really Know Why They Buy Guns? Think Again.

About thirty years ago the gun industry discovered that people who owned guns for hunting and sport were literally dying out. At the same time, European gun makers like Glock and Sig were bringing their guns into the American market and their hi-capacity pistols quickly began displacing the traditional, six-shot revolvers made by Smith & Wesson and Colt.

sig320              The result of this product change was that handguns, which until the 1980s constituted a sizable but nevertheless minority of all guns manufactured and sold, pulled ahead of long guns – rifles and shotguns – to the point that currently pistols outstrip all other gun categories in terms of sales. The only thing that has kept rifle sales even close has been the continued demand for ‘black’ guns (assault-style rifles.)  In fact, were it not for the sale of assault-style rifles, long guns would probably not account for even one-third of all new guns added to the civilian arsenal each year.

The gun industry messaging promoting handguns and assault rifles embraces two points of view. First is the idea that guns can and should be used to protect society from crime. This is such a pervasive attitude in the gun world that the NRA has even copyrighted the phrase ‘the armed citizen©’ so I better make sure to include it whenever I write those words (I just did.) The second argument to promote handgun ownership is that a gun symbolizes the freedoms afforded Americans by the Constitution because the 2nd Amendment gives us the ‘right’ to own a gun.

One or both of these arguments or their variations are found in virtually every pro-gun statement no matter whose mouth utters the words. Both statements popped out of Trump’s mouth at every stop during the 2016 campaign. There’s only one little problem. Neither of these statements bears any relationship to reality at all.  As in none.  Get it?  None.

The idea that guns have a positive social utility because armed citizens protect us from crime has been floating around since God knows when, but the number of people who can honestly state that they used a gun to protect themselves or others from a criminal attack is pathetically small. The NRA invites its members to submit examples of how they or other armed citizens take the law into their own hands, and the website on which they post those stories has never carried more than 400 stories in any one year. Want to calculate the number of defensive gun uses as a percentage of concealed-carry licenses?  Try .00002%.  That’s it.

Talking about concealed-carry licenses, if John Lott and some of the other pro-gun blowhards really believe that the fact that 14 million concealed-carry licenses make America a safer place, why doesn’t he do a survey and ask how many people with CCW are actually walking around with a gun?  I’ll tell you why this esteemed researcher doesn’t do any research on this issue. Because he knows that most people who could carry a handgun don’t want to bother actually carrying the gun. This is because after the thrill wears off they realize that having a lethal device on your person is more trouble than it’s worth.

As for the issue of gun ownership making us ‘free,’ I won’t even comment on the stupidity of that one, despite the fact that there are even some liberal scholars who hold and promote that point of view. But this argument remains a potent source of pro-gun rhetorical energy because who would dare argue with motherhood, apple pie or the Bill of Rights?

Gun-control advocates should stop citing all these evidence-based studies which prove beyond any doubt that access to guns represents a risk because the other side isn’t interested in evidence at all. They’ll cling to their pro-gun notions for the simple reason that when it comes to forming or holding strong beliefs, emotions override facts every, single time. Don’t believe me? Ask that laid-off factory worker whether he still believes that Trump will bring back his job.

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Get Ready For Battle With Your AR But Don’t Forget All Those Extras That Go With The Gun.

I bought my first AR-15 in 1978 and with a scope and sling the gun ran me about $600 bucks.  Which means that in today’s numbers, that gun should cost me about $1,500 bucks. And right after Sandy Hook, when it looked like a gun bill had a chance of squeaking through Congress and landing on Obama’s desk, prices for black guns did briefly flirt at the $1,500 mark. Then reality set in, everyone who wanted an AR owned an AR or maybe two ARs, the number of ‘new’ shooters coming into the market has never been more than a trickle, and AR prices went back down south.  Last year I bought a mint Colt H-Bar for $700 which a year earlier would have set me back at least thousand bucks.

ar              Had I waited until this year to enlarge my AR arsenal, I could have bought the whole wing-ding now for several hundred dollars less because multiple companies are now selling AR “kits” which, like the old ham radio kits that I bought as a kid for $29.95, enable me to build a complete gun from scratch.  I can also simply buy every single part from different suppliers, which will even save me a few more bucks, and all the instructions for assembling the gun are, of course, available on various internet websites. Or if I don’t want to bother to read anything, I can also watch a video which claims to show me every step that I need to follow to build an AR for less than $500 bucks.

Let me quickly clarify the legal issues involved in building your own gun.  In fact, these AR kits are firearms that need to be purchased through a federally-licensed dealer because they come with a part known as the receiver which contains a specific serial number and is, under law, the part which makes a gun a gun.  Every firearm has a receiver, it’s the part which normally holds the trigger and is the foundation, if you will, for assembling the entire gun.  But if you know someone with some good milling equipment you can make your own receiver, and if you don’t transfer this part to anyone else, then under law you have not actually manufactured a firearm which means you don’t have to register the gun at all.

The reason that you can’t buy a kit to make a Glock or a Sig is because the design and functioning of those guns is protected by trademarks and copyrights, so anyone who attempted to make home-grown parts for a Sig 226 would find himself quickly facing a legal suit.  But the AR consists of what is referred to as ‘mil-spec’ parts, none of which are any more protected by trademark or copyright and all of which are manufactured by hundreds of small machining companies who just make sure that the part they produce is exactly the size required to fit into any AR gun.

So where does this leave the gun industry if anyone can put together their own version of America’s most popular gun at half the price that the same gun commands when it’s sitting on a dealer’s shelf?  Where it leaves the gun industry is in a happy place because the real attraction of the AR is that it can take a multitude of accessories, many of which cost more than the gun itself, are manufactured cheap as hell overseas and, best of all, don’t require any kind of point-of-sale licensing at all.  I just received a Shop Now email from Optics Planet with links to 118 products which I can use to ‘deck out’ my AR.  An Aimpoint red dot scope, front and rear Troy folding battle sights, a Mission First tactical grip and a Blackhawk sling will set me back around $900 (almost twice the price of the gun) or I can go whole hog and slap on a Trijicon ACOG for a thousand bucks.

And what will I do with my battle-ready AR when it’s all decked out?  Stick it in the closet with all my other guns.

Is Gun Control Un-American?

On Sunday I went out to play golf and caught up with the guy ahead of me at the 7th tee.  The 7th hole at this course is the No. 1 handicap, so it’s not unusual to spend some time waiting for the players ahead of you to struggle to the green before you start your own tortuous way up the fairway.  As I came alongside the player I noticed he was standing on the tee looking at his droid, and since he was dressed in a corporate-casual golf outfit, I jokingly said to him, “Well, you always have time to catch up with your emails when we get to this hole.”

“Oh no,” he replied, smiling, “I’m actually watching Costa Rica versus Greece.”  That’s right.  What was the hip thing for my generation to do on the golf course ten years ago – read our emails – has now been replaced by the World Cup.  And the fact that many of the matches are drawing larger viewing audiences than the World Series or the NBA should tell you how America is changing.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the popularity of soccer is due to the fact that we are being overrun by immigrants coming from countries where the real game of football is so-named because it’s played with the feet.

The truth is that soccer continues to grow in popularity because increasingly America is looking overseas for culture and lifestyle activities and even political ideas that were previously unknown or unpopular over here.  In 2002, roughly 60 percent of Americans believed that our culture was superior to all others; a Pew poll in 2011 found this number had dropped to less than 50 percent.  If you’re over 50, it’s still likely that your favorite sport isd baseball, the All-American pastime.  If you’re under 40, soccer is your favorite sport.

fifaIt’s partially the surge in Hispanic population that’s pushing these trends; but the real shift is among people under 30 – the Millennials – who just don’t buy into the traditional versions of the American Dream.  Of course this is also the first generation raised on the internet and gets the bulk of its information from video sources rather than print.  Which is another reason that younger Americans look to Europe because cell-phones, droids and new technologies in general were much more prevalent in the Old World before they started appearing in the New.

People who continue to promote American exceptionalism, the idea that we do it better because we do it different from everyone else, are having a hard time selling this message to the kids who are glued to their screens, big and little, watching the World Cup.  And what could be more exceptional than the 2nd Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms?  Most Europeans have absolutely no idea what it’s like to own a gun; they certainly can’t even imagine keeping a Glock in their pocket for self-defense.

It will be interesting to see whether younger people, as they get older, start moving towards a greater appreciation of traditional American values, thus turning away from Europe and, like previous generations, embrace things that makes the USA different and great.  This is certainly the line that the NRA and the gun industry is pitching at younger folks, and we’ll just have to wait to see how it plays out.  Meanwhile, all you gun guys out there – do you know the name of one player on the American World Cup team?  I don’t.