Killings are great for the bottom line of weapons manufacturers, and representatives from major defense contractors made that clear this week at a conference in West Palm Beach. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner praised the “indirect” benefits from a war in Syria, and part of his speech was widely shared on the Internet. According to Tanner, Middle East strife and conflict in Syria and Turkey will cause “an intangible lift because of the dynamics of that environment and our products in theater.” Wilson Jones, the president of the defense manufacturer Oshkosh, concurred about increased sales, and Raytheon Chief Executive Tom Kennedy talked about the “significant uptick.” Another speaker at the conference predicted that ISIS’s active armed profile would lead to more marketing opportunities for US defense firms.
Another reason that contractors celebrated was the $607 billion budget from Congress for the Department of Defense. “Our programs are well supported [in the budget]. We think we did fare very well,” Tanner concluded. Very well, indeed, as did stock holders with weapons manufacturers.
U.S. dealers also profit from terrorism by selling weapons to the terrorists. For example, a M29 semi-automatic pistol has been traced to the Florida gun dealer Century Arms. They bought it from Zastava Arms, a Serbian arms manufacturer, that imports heavy weapons to U.S. dealers. Loopholes in U.S. lax gun laws allow gun dealers to import high-powered rifles “stripped of their military features” so that they can be sold as “sporting rifles.” After arriving in the U.S., rifles can be modified back into assault rifles. Having restored the full killing power of the guns, dealers distribute them to civilians.
Century Arms is a primary importer of the WASR-10, a Romanian modified version of the AK-47 bought legally and smuggled into Mexico where drug cartels use them to spread terror and death. The dealer’s history goes back to its implication in the 1980s Iran Contra scandal when they “supplied rockets, grenades and other weapons to Nicaraguan rebels.”
With 31 percent of global arms exports from 2010 to 2014, the United States is number one in exporting hundreds of billions of dollars worth of military weaponry and equipment. At home, gun sales surged after the San Bernardino as NRA followers repeated the myth of a “good guy with a gun.” NRA collects money for each and every gun sold in the United States, and gun sales are breaking records. Gun production has more than doubled since President Obama was first elected as gun manufacturers and dealers kept spreading the falsehood that he would take away the guns.
Sales from just one company, Smith & Wesson, rose 15.2% to $124.9 million in the past three months and were up 32.1 percent since the same time period last year. Net income was $14.2 million, almost three times the $5.2 million that the company made during the same time period last year. The company’s stock climbed 125 percent in the past 12 months despite an ongoing SEC investigation into the company’s alleged corruption practices.
In response to this travesty, the New York Times published its December 5 editorial, “The Gun Epidemic,” on the front page above the fold for the first time since 1920. That editorial denounced the “cowardice and imbecility” of Warren Harding’s nomination. From the NYT editorial:
“It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday.”
Another NYT editorial this week attacked the gun industry’s “war profiteering”:
“Across recent decades, gun manufacturers, facing a decline in general gun ownership as demographics shifted and sports hunting faded, have cynically created a domestic market for barely altered rifles and pistols developed for the military. These are weapons designed for the rapid spray-shooting of multiple enemy soldiers in wartime, not homeland civilians living in peace.”
The term “military grade” is one that the NRA and gun “enthusiasts” criticize as a meaningless statement about guns meant for warfare. They try to use descriptions of stocks and barrel length to claim ignorance on the part of gun control advocates. Yet the gun industry itself markets these firearms as weapons of war.
“’As Close as You Can Get Without Enlisting,’ reads one tag line under a photo of a poised shooter aiming the civilian version of a military rifle. An ad for a semiautomatic shotgun promises security whether in ‘Iraq, Afghanistan, Your Livingroom.’ An ad for an armor-piercing handgun shows an embattled infantryman above the line: ‘Built For Them … Built For You.’”
People concerned about the lax U.S. gun laws question why civilians need to own guns “designed to pierce concrete bunkers and armored personnel carriers.” The guns flooding the U.S. are most useful for mass shootings. Not since the tobacco industry lied about the lethal effects of its product have corporations sold a product with the complete understanding of how many deaths would result from their product. The only answer to the necessity for “military grade” gun ownership is always “freedom” and “protection from tyranny,” but a more credible response would be the feeling of control over lesser individuals.
Showing the level of maturity in someone who most likely calls himself a “responsible gun owner,” Erick Erickson, conservative talk radio host and editor of RedState.com, shot holes in a copy of the New York Times. He also invited others to post photos of bullet holes in the editorial. Is it possible that he believes he can destroy an idea by shooting the paper that it’s printed on?
Making profits from gun violence has extended into the schools. These items for sale show the gun culture in a country that has almost no gun restrictions:
- Bulletproof blankets: The “Bodyguard™ blanket for school shooting is made of materials used by U.S. soldiers in battle.
- Bulletproof backpacks: Armored backpacks rose in sales after the massacre at Sandy Hook, and the number of manufactures has expanded since then.
- Bulletproof classroom whiteboards: Schools are increasingly spending money on whiteboards that might give people hope.
- Bulletproof clothing: Parents asked for “ballistic protection” because they are afraid of sending their children to school. The manufacturer is in Colombia but markets for the American market.
- School shooting smartphone apps: This “panic button in the hands of every teacher and staff” alerts participating schools within a five-mile radius as well as “all participating law enforcement officers, on and off duty, who are in close proximity.”
- Bulletproof baseball caps: Manufactures claim that the impact from a variety of calibers is “twice that of being hit in helmet with a hockey puck.”
- School shooting-focused books: Goodreads lists 51 novels about school shootings, and nonfiction books include how-to guides.
For the parents, a bedside gun holster and a bulletproof Bible. (We might ask how safe any of these devices are–especially the “bedside gun holster.”)
No, this isn’t a parody, and no additional guns, including those in schools, won’t help. Only 3 percent of active shooter events were stopped by a civilian with a gun, according to a FBI analysis of these events between 2000 and 2013; unarmed civilians stopped over four times as many, about 13 percent. The higher the household gun ownership, the greater the number of homicides, according to studies. All weapons manufacturers and dealers are creating are more deaths.