Gun Manufacturers Fight To Protect Profits From Black Market Sales

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 10:51 EDT
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The gun lobby likes to portray itself as the defender of the right of ordinary Americans to own guns/build giant personal arsenals for future shoot-outs with the feds. What they actually are, as I’ve said before, is an industry lobby established for the sole purpose of increasing profits for gun manufacturers. That’s why they circulate paranoid fantasies of impending government takeover amongst the right, because that’s a proven marketing strategy that increases gun sales. They like to claim they support responsible, law-abiding gun ownership, but in that comes in conflict with the profit motivation, they will choose the latter every time.

Today, the New York Times published a report about how bold gun manufacturers are about their willingness to put guns on the black market, if it increases their profits:

 The Glock executive testified that he would keep doing business with a gun dealer who had been indicted on a charge of violating firearms laws because “This is still America” and “You’re still innocent until proven guilty.”

The president of Sturm, Ruger was not interested in knowing how often the police traced guns back to the company’s distributors, saying it “wouldn’t show us anything.”

And a top executive for Taurus International said his company made no attempt to learn if dealers who sell its products were involved in gun trafficking on the black market. “I don’t even know what a gun trafficker is,” he said.

This testimony is dug up from lawsuits that happened prior to 2005, where plantiffs, including the NAACP, were suing gun manufacturers for their role in creating a black market for guns. In sum, gun manufacturers have made it as easy as humanly possible for gun dealers to make huge sales of guns to people who clearly will be turning around and selling them on the black market to people who couldn’t pass background checks. Selling guns to criminals—even if you have to use a bunch of middlemen to do it—is good for business, and gun manufacturers understandably were neither going to take voluntary action to limit these sales nor were they going to allow the government to pass laws to limit these sales.

Except one, it turns out. Someone at Smith & Wesson has a conscience, and the company took voluntary action to keep their guns from falling into the hands of criminals. They required their dealers to perform background checks at gun shows and took action to limit the number of guns that could be bought by one person at a time. They paid dearly for it.

Only one major company, Smith & Wesson, the nation’s largest handgun manufacturer, broke ranks. In 2000, it agreed to settle the litigation, and it adopted a number of far-reaching changes, including promising to design a handgun that could not be operated by children and forbidding its dealers and distributors from selling at gun shows unless background checks were conducted on all sales.

Smith & Wesson’s sales quickly plummeted amid an industry backlash. Documents produced through the discovery process in the municipal suits show other gun makers seeking to isolate the company. A letter from Dwight Van Brunt, an executive at Kimber America, a gun maker, to top officials at a firearms industry trade group urged them to confer with the N.R.A. and “boycott Smith now and forever. Run them out of the country.”

“You guys need to make sure that no one else is going to join the surrender,” Mr. Van Brunt wrote.

None did. When a new company bought Smith & Wesson in 2001, executives distanced themselves from the arrangement, which had never been enforced. The company resumed its place in trade groups like the shooting sports foundation.

You might be wondering why these lawsuits are so  old, and why there aren’t more of them, since they turn up such damning evidence of the gun industry working hard to make sure that their profits made from working around federal legislation to get guns into the hands of criminals. Simple! President Bush signed a law suggested by the NRA and other gun industry lobbies in 2005 that  gives immunity from lawsuits to gun manufacturers who engage in practices that make it easier for criminals to buy guns. As long as gun manufacturers play dumb and say they had no idea that someone might be buying legal guns in bulk to turn around and sell on the black market, they can’t be sued for greasing the wheels for these large sales.

The NRA is a gun industry lobby. They don’t give a fuck about gun owners. They just see them as rubes who exist to increase industry profits.

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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