A new long-term study regarding gun culture in the United States was published by a House Oversight Committee Wednesday, providing some formidable insights into the way lobbying and advertising feeds into the epidemic of gun violence in the country. This official report was only the latest investigative effort that found a strong link between violent crime and crime perception on one hand and gun slaves and profits on the other hand. It also contains strong anecdotal evidence pointing to a possible causation between security corporate practices and a culture of fear and insecurity.
Gun violence in the United States is a colossal crisis of unrivalled proportions. Each year, firearms have been consistently involved in around 40,000 deaths in the United States each year, as well as up to 100,000 more non-fatal injuries, compared to barely 100 in the United Kingdom – which still has a much higher rate than many other OECD countries. While mass shootings make the most headlines, most gun violence in the States consists of suicides, followed by routine shootings in low-income neighbourhoods. This violence cost the U.S. economy as much as $229 billion in direct costs in 2019 alone.
Previous studies have shown that over the short term, firearms manufacturers see a sharp rise in their stock price, revenue, and profits, almost invariably following a cataclysmic mass shooting event. Despite limited investment in gun violence research in the U.S., this much is clear in all the data publicly available regarding the issue. For instance, FBI data indicates that background checks into buyers nearly doubled in the summer of 2020 compared to a year earlier, apparently attributable to the unrest following revelations about police violence against minorities. This evidently creates a conflict of interest and a strong incentive for unregulated gun and security companies to promote a culture of fear and further violence.
It is in this context that the House Oversight and Reform Committee released a new report adding yet more evidence to these findings. It shows how sharply gun sales and revenues have increased over time in the country. The report specifically focused on AR-15 style assault weapons, finding that the manufacturers reaped a hefty gain of over $1 billion over the past decade from such military-grade small arms alone. Some companies saw their earnings increase multiple-fold within the past three years. For instance, Daniel Defense, the company that manufactured the gun used in the recent Uvalde school shooting, saw earnings increase from $40 million to $120 million from 2019 to 2021 alone.
The report also provided insight into the advertisement practices of security companies. The ads in question are targeted at very specific audiences of young insecure men and use popular first-person shooter games, and evoke notions of masculinity to boost their profits. Financing a gun purchase is easier than ever, with companies boasting about their credit policies, and that the process could be completed ‘In seconds’. These findings were described as ‘Deeply disturbing, exploitative and reckless’ by Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York.
As we look at how gun violence has increased in the United States , we should be thinking of strategies to counter how to combat this such as turning vacant lots into community gardens reduce gun violence or increasing the cost of guns and banning AR-15 for individuals under 21.
We have to be more counterproductive as this new generation is more comfortable with having access and it’s time we start holding our government more accountable on the laws they pass that makes it easier to access guns and hold these gun manufacturers more accountable like we do these social media companies.