Economics of US firearms industry serve as barrier to enforce tighter controls

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/8 18:13:39

A bipartisan effort in US Congress to ban the so-called bump stocks - a device that allow a semi-automatic rifle to fire like a fully automatic one - seems to be the whole official reaction in the aftermath of the Las Vegas mass shooting, the deadliest shooting in US modern history.

That's far from stricter gun control laws people are calling for after the shooting. While gun violence is undoubtedly a big problem in the US, it appears that little can be done to reduce the country's about 31,000 firearm deaths every year, which may be because of the economic importance of the gun industry in the US.

The death toll from mass shootings has continued to rise in recent years, but that hasn't stopped the firearms industry from growing rapidly. According to data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the economic scale of the US firearms industry jumped 168 percent from $19.1 billion in 2008 to $51.3 billion in 2016. The industry's tax contribution topped $6.8 billion in 2016, with about 301,000 Americans employed in the industry.

Moreover, there are about 65,000 gun dealerships in the US, which is more than the combined number of supermarkets, McDonald's outlets and Starbucks coffee shops.

Shares of gun manufacturers often rally following high-profile mass shootings. While support for stricter gun control spikes after mass shootings, such talk of tougher laws usually sparks a rise in gun sales as gun sellers tell consumers to buy more guns to better protect themselves before the introduction of a new gun law.

In addition to the misguided logic, the firearms industry also has powerful lobbying groups representing its interests, exerting great influence on Washington. While expressing his condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the Las Vegas shooting, President Donald Trump failed to mention anything about gun control, and the administration simply said it's too soon to talk about gun laws. As time goes by, it can be expected that public debate over gun control will gradually fade, and the Las Vegas shooting will bring no change to gun legislation. It seems obvious that the US government cannot afford to really curb the source of revenue for such a lucrative industry. In this context, it would be naive to count on Americans learning from the mass shooting and taking practical action to stop it from happening again.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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