Universal Background Checks Threaten Gun Industry Profits, So They Have to Go

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 10:45 EDT
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It looks like the gun legislation that Congress is considering is stalling out not just on the assault weapons ban, but on what’s probably an even more important part of the bill, universal background checks. Republicans just aren’t having it, and Harry Reid is considering taking it out of the bill in the hopes that it will pass. Sadly, this was entirely predictable. As I’ve noted before, the rule of thumb is that if a regulation would cut into the profits of the gun industry, their lobbyists and Republicans will resist the regulation. Apparently, a loophole that allows criminals to buy guns from private dealers is just too profitable for gun manufacturers, and they’re going to resist closing the loophole, even if that means the murder rate remains high. As noted at Think Progress, universal background checks are effective, popular, and inexpensive, so quite literally the only thing standing in the way is a lobby that is intent on protecting gun industry profits above all else.

Making sure that criminals can get their hands on guns increases gun industry profits in two major ways. The most obvious is that if criminals are buying their products, gun manufacturers make more money directly. Even if they’re buying them secondhand, that increases demand on manufacturers, since someone has to buy them firsthand to sell them to the secondhand market.

But beyond just that, the gun industry benefits from having a lot of well-armed criminals around, because their presence justifies the purchase of more guns for the non-criminal consumer. Gun marketing is largely fear-based, which is why Wayne LaPierre is always on about how the world is just about to collapse into chaos and you need a mini-arsenal of his industry’s products to protect yourself. They need people to believe that the streets are clogged up with criminals wielding guns, because that’s how they convince you to buy more guns and bigger, more expensive guns. They are quite literally trying to induce an arms race, which is why, inevitably, the answer to every question of personal security is to buy more guns and line the coffers of the gun industry. If guns stopped falling in the hands of criminals and the nightly news didn’t have a relentless flow of gun murders to report on, people might start to believe they’re safe, and they would buy fewer guns.

Of course, there’s an irony here, which is that the “they’re coming to get you!” pitch is aimed at white suburbanites mostly, i.e. the people who are in the least amount of danger from the urban gang warfare that haunts their nightmares. But that doesn’t mean they’re safe from gun violence! The proliferation of guns also means more domestic homicides, more domestic violence, more suicides, and more accidents from guns. The gun industry and their lobbyists have created a system where people put themselves in danger by stockpiling weapons to guard against imaginary dangers. Getting a class of people to spend huge amounts of money on your product based strictly on a fantasy that you’ve created for them? That’s the end goal of every marketer, ever, and the gun industry is the gold standard.

Unfortunately, to create the illusion of danger in suburbia, they have had to stoke real dangers in many cities across America, especially Chicago. A simple measure—universal background checks—could help pop the bubble, and make it harder for the gun industry to profit off crime while simultaneously making everyone safer. But it looks like Harry Reid might balk, because standing up for this could kill the bill.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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