The week after 71 innocent moviegoers were shot with military style weapons in Aurora, Colo., gun sales in that state increased by more than 40 percent compared to the previous week.
Similar trends occurred after the massacres at Columbine High School (36 students shot, 13 killed), Virginia Tech (52 students shot, 32 killed) and many other high profile mass shootings.
But the post-shooting uptick in sales is not just a result of scared civilians taking up arms. This spike is fueled by the National Rifle Association and gun industry merchants who — through misinformation and clever public relations — convince gun owners to buy increasingly powerful weapons before, as they say, Democrats enact gun bans and confiscate all the firearms.
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
History has shown us that in the aftermath of a mass shooting, calls for common sense and responsible changes in national gun laws fall on deaf ears in Congress and are routinely met by a strong conservative backlash supported and funded by the NRA. The group encourages people to be prepared to violently defend their constitutional right against illusory threats from law enforcement, or “jack-booted government thugs” in the words of NRA executive director Wayne Lapierre.
And the greater the public fear – the bigger the gun sales. No matter what they say to the contrary, the gun industry reaps major financial benefits from daily gun violence and more high-profile mass shootings.
Growing membership and flowing donations aside – the NRA also has a new and lucrative relationship on Wall Street with a private investment company called Cerberus. Cerberus — along with its subsidiary the Freedom Group — is managed by financier Stephen Feinberg. Feinberg facilitated the acquisition of several notable gun manufacturers including Remington (maker of the 12 gauge shotgun used in Aurora), Bushmaster (which makes the XM15 used by the D.C. sniper), Dakota Arms, Marlin Firearms, and DPMS Firearms.
With a collection of gun and ammunition manufacturers aligned and under one roof — the formidable Freedom Group has joined with the NRA to fight against a federal ban on assault weapons, simple and effective manufacturing and safety standards, background checks for all gun sales and gun legislation that might help law enforcement solve gun crimes and curb preventable gun violence.
With close to $80 million in political spending since 1990 (including nearly $40 million in donations from the gun industry alone), the NRA has such a strong grip on Congress that they’ve even successfully blocked gun safety regulations by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. How an agency that oversees every consumer product — from toy guns to teddy bears — is prohibited by Congress from regulating real firearms is beyond me. But that’s a topic for another day.
The exceptional treatment granted to the gun industry as a result of its political contributions, influence and intimidation has perpetuated a deadly — if profitable — cycle of gun violence. Just as assault weapons have immense stopping power, so does your vote. With 150 Americans shot and 83 killed every day by firearms, our elected officials need to be called to account.
Stop Handgun Violence unveils a 252 feet by 20 feet billboard above the Massachusetts Turnpike on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. The co-founder of the Newton-based group, John Rosenthal, owns the billboard and has been using it to post eye-catching gun-control messages since 1995.