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Additional comments: toward a goal of reduced gun violence

2015-12-08

We noted in our previous post about “gun control” that there are approximately 300 million firearms in the United States (another source states, more precisely if not more accurately, 276 million firearms of all types.)  This plethora of arms is unique in the world: it has also been estimated that, with 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States has 50% of the world’s firearms.  A parallel, and probably not coincidental, fact is that the United States federal government spends more than virtually all other countries in the world combined on its military establishment.

The reasons for the quantity of arms and related paraphernalia in the US are, first, that the US is one of the richest countries in the world, second, that the US was a victor (and chief arms supplier to the Allies) in the last world war, and third, there was for many years (until 1968) little or no regulation of private civilian arms purchases.  Contributing to the laissez-faire attitude of the public has been the tradition of rural arms possession for hunting and self-defense that has persisted since the settlement of the West in the early nineteenth century.  In fact, in parallel with the urbanization of America, the percentage of people owning firearms has gradually but consistently dropped to about one-quarter of the adult population.

However, the number of firearms in civilian hands has consistently risen.  In part, this is because firearms are extremely durable and have been manufactured to very high standards for over a hundred years.  Once manufactured, with a little care and proper storage, a firearm is likely to last well over a hundred years.  Because of the durability of modern firearms and the reduction of interest in firearms over recent years, manufacturers have been forced to market new types and calibers of arms to people who are already owners, and to attempt to market an interest in firearms to the younger generation.  Without this marketing, manufacturers fear a reduction in sales would be inevitable.

Despite the durability of arms and lack of interest by the younger generation, gun sales are booming.  Incidents such as the election (and re-election) of Barack Obama and the Newtown school shootings have been blamed for spikes in sales over the last few years.  It can only be inferred that sales are being made to people who already own firearms.  These people appear to feel that their present arms are inadequate, and that they need semi-automatic firearms in military calibers that can accept large magazines.

The reasons behind the insecurity of those who already own firearms are complex, but we can hypothesize that the reasons include intensive marketing by arms manufacturers.

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