Yesterday, Drew Magary at Gawker wrote an excellent post arguing that it’s time to stop fighting with gun owners (which always turns into a clusterfuck of them exploiting the opportunity to dither endlessly about the minor differences of various guns and ammo anyway) and start focusing on the enormous businesses that make a handsome profit off violence and mayhem. Today, I argue at The American Prospect that a really good way to shift the conversation is to start targeting gun advertising for regulation, much in the way that we targeted cigarette advertising. (Drew made a similar analogy, suggesting that shooting victims start suing gun companies the way cancer victims sued cigarette makers.) Guns are a big business.
Looking away from the angry white men clinging to their guns while imagining the day they get to shoot the gangs of imaginary enemies they suspect will be banging down their door any day, and towards the people who profit handsomely off exploiting this paranoia has a number of benefits to it. I list most of them in my article, so check it out. But already the idea that shifting focus from gun owners to gun sellers is a better political bet is working out quite nicely. Cerebus Capital Management Group is selling off any ownership they have in the firearms business. This choice is a big deal:
Cerberus became a key member of the gun industry in 2006 when it purchased Bushmaster Firearms from its then-owner Richard Dyke in 2006. It subsequently founded the firearms manufacturer holding company Freedom Group and acquired several other notable gun brands, including Remington Arms and Marlin.
In just two short years following the purchase of Bushmaster, Cerberus had become the nation’s largest firearms and ammunition distributor, selling over half of all semiautomatic rifles.
Wal-Mart also stopped selling the Bushmaster AR-15 online, though probably not for long. This is all from just a slight uptick in attention paid to the business of selling guns after this massacre, compared to previous massacres. Imagine if we liberals really started to really take seriously the idea of focusing on the industry side of guns.
The best part is that it would make an interesting wedge issue. Right now, gun lovers believe, incorrectly, that their interests don’t diverge from the people who make and sell them their guns. But that’s not exactly true. After all, the gun industry treats them like gullible idiots who have deep fears of not being manly enough, and they tell they can assuage those fears by buying more guns. This creates interesting conflicts that aren’t currently perceived as conflicts, but could be. For instance, as I noted at XX Factor yesterday, a lot of gun nuts are rushing to downplay the power of the AR-15 that Adam Lanza used in the murders, because they don’t want to see it regulated. But the manufacturers depend on the image of that gun and many like it as badass killing machines that make your dick 15 inches long in order to sell them. There’s contradictions there, and we can create chaos and drive wedges by pointing that out.
But the only way to do that is to start talking more about the manufacturers and less about gun owners themselves. Or, we should start looking at gun owners as marks, targeted by a sleazy and exploitative industry that doesn’t care if their products kill their own damn customers, as long as you keep buying. Everyone is desperate to change this conversation. This is how we do it.