Printed on: January 22, 2013

A market for lethal weapons

Ed Marohn
Local columnist

The National Rifle Association's hard line on gun control is driven by one thing -- profit, writes Ed Marohn.Exploiting the Second Amendment and American civil rights, the National Rifle Association's position against gun control is driven largely by the corporate profits of U.S. arms manufacturers. Founded on November 17, 1871, the NRA's mission was to help improve the dismal marksmanship of Americans after the Civil War. But today the NRA is a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(4) organization, allowing it to both operate as a charity under the former tag -- receiving federal tax exemption -- and under the latter to participate in politics and lobbying for the gun industry.

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, with an annual compensation of $970,000, said, "I mean, the strongest defense of the Second Amendment is the marketplace. And there's no clearer picture about how average American citizens feel about their Second Amendment rights than lines at gun stores all over the country right now because they fear the Obama administration's second term is coming after their freedom." By promoting irrational conspiratorial hysteria that the federal government is after Americans' freedoms, the NRA has helped drive gun sales in a nation that averages 87 gun deaths per day.

Former Congressman Joe Scarborough, a Republican, stated that the NRA "... is now a fringe organization. ... What the NRA once was, it no longer is. This extremism is so frightening and so over the line." And former President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, resigned his lifetime NRA membership to protest LaPierre's tirades against law enforcement personnel.

A quarter-billion-dollar revenue organization, the NRA is connected to the $12 billion-a-year gun industry: Sturm Ruger handguns in a yearlong promotion gave the NRA a dollar for each gun sold ($1.2 million) and Beretta USA provided $1 million to support Second Amendment lawsuits.

The gun industry has business concerns because the demographics point to a potential decrease in gun buyers. "... the industry is trying to think of one new thing to sell to gun owners," says Josh Sugarmann, head of the Violence Policy Center. "They've recognized that the traditional market -- traditional hunting rifles and shotguns -- is saturated. So there's an ever-shrinking market that's buying more and more lethal weapons." Manufacturers need sales to survive.

Rather than working with the political leaders and promoting rational solutions to the gun violence that costs America $100 billion annually, the NRA is perpetuating fear of gun control laws. And capitalistically LaPierre blames too few guns for the Connecticut massacre and wants armed guards at every school. One armed guard per each of 132,656 public schools and arming 3.8 million teachers could lead to sales for the gun industry of more than $3 billion -- a windfall for the gun industry.

But who pays?

The taxpayers will, but not the NRA or gun manufacturers.

Marohn is a retired executive with Continental AG.