The US gun industry and trends
Evan Osnos has an extremely interesting (and somewhat lengthy) article about guns and the gun business in the US. It’s not pro-gun or anti-gun, relying mostly on facts but also interviews with various people, including some who favor widespread gun ownership and concealed carry. Well worth reading. It begins:
Bars in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia let out at 2 a.m. On the morning of January 17, 2010, two groups emerged, looking for taxis. At the corner of Market and Third Street, they started yelling at each other. On one side was Edward DiDonato, who had recently begun work at an insurance company, having graduated from Villanova University, where he was a captain of the lacrosse team. On the other was Gerald Ung, a third-year law student at Temple, who wrote poetry in his spare time and had worked as a technology consultant for Freddie Mac. Both men had grown up in prosperous suburbs: DiDonato in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia; Ung in Reston, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.
Everyone had been drinking, and neither side could subsequently remember how the disagreement started; one of DiDonato’s friends may have kicked in the direction of one of Ung’s friends, and Ung may have mocked someone’s hair. “To this day, I have no idea why this happened,” Joy Keh, a photographer who was one of Ung’s friends at the scene, said later.
The argument moved down the block, and one of DiDonato’s friends, a bartender named Thomas V. Kelly IV, lunged at the other group. He was pushed away before he could throw a punch. He rushed at the group again; this time, Ung pulled from his pocket a .380-calibre semiautomatic pistol, the Kel-Tec P-3AT. Only five inches long and weighing barely half a pound, it was a “carry gun,” a small, lethal pistol designed for “concealed carry,” the growing practice of toting a hidden gun in daily life. Two decades ago, leaving the house with a concealed weapon was strictly controlled or illegal in twenty-two states, and fewer than five million Americans had a permit to do so. Since then, it has become legal in every state, and the number of concealed-carry permit holders has climbed to an estimated 12.8 million.
Ung had obtained a concealed-carry license because he was afraid of street crime. He bought a classic .45-calibre pistol but later switched to the Kel-Tec, which was easier to carry; for a year and a half, he stowed one of the pistols in his pocket or in his backpack. He had never fired it. Now, on the sidewalk, he held the Kel-Tec with outstretched arms. A pedestrian heard him yell, “You’d better not piss me off!” Ung maintains that he said, “Back the fuck up.” DiDonato thought the pistol looked too small to be real; he guessed that it was a BB gun. He spread his arms, stepped forward, and said, “Who are you going to shoot, man?” Ung pulled the trigger. Afterward, he couldn’t recall how many times—he said it felt like a movie, and he was “seeing sparks and hearing pops.”
Ung hit DiDonato six times: in the liver, the lung, the shoulder, the hand, the intestine, and the spine. When DiDonato collapsed, Ung called 911 and said that he had shot a man. On the call, he was recorded pleading, “Why did you make me do it?” DiDonato, in a weak voice, can be heard saying, “Please don’t let me die.” When police arrived, Ung’s first words were “I have a permit.”
More American civilians have died by gunfire in the past decade than all the Americans who were killed in combat in the Second World War. When an off-duty security guard named Omar Mateen, armed with a Sig Sauer semiautomatic rifle and a Glock 17 pistol, killed forty-nine people at a gay club in Orlando, on June 12th, it was historic in some respects and commonplace in others—the largest mass shooting in American history and, by one count, the hundred-and-thirtieth mass shooting so far this year. High-profile massacres can summon our attention, and galvanize demands for change, but in 2015 fatalities from mass shootings amounted to just two per cent of all gun deaths. Most of the time, when Americans shoot one another, it is impulsive, up close, and apolitical.
None of that has hurt the gun business. In recent years, in response to three kinds of events—mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and talk of additional gun control—gun sales have broken records. “You know that every time a bomb goes off somewhere, every time there’s a shooting somewhere, sales spike like crazy,” Paul Jannuzzo, a former chief of American operations for Glock, the Austrian gun company, told me.
Sometimes the three sources of growth converge. . .
One odd omission: Osnos writes:
Selling to buyers who were concerned about self-defense was even better than selling to hunters, because self-defense has no seasons. The only problem, from a marketing perspective, was that America was becoming, by any measure, a less dangerous place. Violent crime peaked in 1991, during the crack-cocaine era, and has dropped by almost half since then. Victimization rates of rape or sexual assault are down sixty per cent from their historic highs. (The reasons for the decline are debated, but most scholars credit a combination of an improved economy, more police, better technology, and a broad decline in alcohol use.)
The main reason for the decline, according to all the research I’ve seen, is the abatement of lead in the environment, both in a focus on removal of lead-based paints and in the discontinuance of leaded gasoline, with the latter change particularly efficient. Take a look.