As America seeks answers to gun violence, the gun industry should be in our nation’s sights.
A study released last week by the Center for American Progress details how the gun lobby over decades has insulated itself from responsibility for the 40,000 people who are shot and killed in the U.S. each year. As a result, guns keep flowing onto the streets, leading to deaths and exacerbating tensions between police and communities.
Since 2013, Chicago police have recovered more than 7,000 guns used in crimes.
This has to stop.
Both manufacturers and gun dealers could play a huge role in making America safer. Gun dealers could do more to keep guns out of criminal hands. Manufacturers could insist dealers adopt safer practices. Gunmakers could design guns that thieves or children can’t fire easily.
They could think about something besides making money.
Instead, the gun lobby continues to peddle the discredited narrative that it is not its products, but criminals alone, that are the problem.
No one should be falling for that anymore. If you carelessly put firearms in the hands of criminals, you are also helping to pull the trigger.
“The gun debate has focused on the demand side of the problem and on the individuals who end up using guns,” said Chelsea Parsons, CAP vice president for gun prevention policy. People simply don’t understand the shadowy role the gun industry plays in the background.
The CAP study documents many ways the gun industry has been a reprehensible corporate citizen. Among its “achievements”:
It has blocked universal fingerprint-based background checks.
It has created gun-trafficking legal loopholes.
It has warded off oversight by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which means no government agency has the authority to regulate guns for safety.
It pushed Congress to enact the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which gave gun manufacturers and dealers broad immunity in federal and state courts.
It has made it difficult for the underfunded Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to track guns recovered at crime scenes.
It has successfully supported numerous other measures, large and small, that make America an outlier among advanced nations for gun violence.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the New York attorney general on Thursday sued the leading gun-rights lobby, the National Rifle Association, claiming it diverted some $64 million in charitable contributions to support reckless spending by executives, Axios and other news outlets reported. That case seeks to shut the association down.
A related lawsuit against the NRA and NRA Foundation was filed in Washington, D.C.
The cases also shine a light on the gun manufacturers who contribute to the NRA, said Kathleen Sances, president and CEO of the Gun Violence Prevention PAC-Illinois. “They are the largest supporters of the NRA,” Sances said. “They don’t care that these guns end up in the secondary market.”
All these issues have become much more serious as the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide protests have led to record sales of firearms to people who are feeling fearful and anxious.
But those people mostly don’t realize they are buying products that haven’t been designed or vetted for a high level of safety. We can expect more accidents and misuse of guns. We can expect more of those guns to fall into the wrong hands.
We also are seeing an epidemic of gun store robberies and burglaries, in which firearms are carted off to wind up in the hands or criminals. The ATF can do little more than write strongly worded letters to stores that are broken into over and over again. The gun shop owners just shrug, file insurance claims and go back to their daily business.
All of this adds up to more crime. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 7, guns caused 25,162 American deaths, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The gun industry has proven it won’t step up to protect Americans.
When will our elected leaders force it to do so?
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