Debate Magazine

Merchants of Death

Posted on the 10 October 2011 by Mikeb302000
The protagonist in Christopher Buckley's 1994 Novel, Thank You for Smoking , Nick Naylor, is the chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, a tobacco industry lobbying firm that promotes the benefits of cigarettes. Naylor uses high-profile media events and intentionally provocative rhetoric in order to highlight what his clients view as an unfair crusade against tobacco and nicotine products.
Naylor also has created an informal association of lobbyists from other industries that are subjected to routine vilification in the media, e.g. Polly Bailey, a lobbyist for the alcohol/spirits industry, and Bobby Jay Bliss, who represents the firearms industry. Collectively, they form what is known as the M.O.D. Squad, a reference to the title of a police drama, although in this case, "MOD" stands for "Merchants Of Death".
Part of this post comes from the fact that the Koch Funded Cato Institute, particularly Robert Levy. has been involved in a similar pattern of criticising action against the Tobacco Industry in addition to his footing the bill for DC v. Heller. But the real issue is that the firearms industry tries to hide any possible illegal activity from public scrutiny. The Tiahrt Amendment prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) from releasing information from its firearms trace database to anyone other than a law enforcement agency or prosecutor in connection with a criminal investigation, but that also hides the data for gun running from public scrutiny.
Why would the firearms industry fight regulation if it weren't for the illegal domestic trade in weapons, which bleeds out to other countries (e.g., Mexico and the UK). Do these companies factor the illicit sales into their business plan? The gun lobby and the gun industry do not like laws that could result in a reduction in gun sales, even sales of guns that make their way into the illegal market.
Ppeer-reviewed, published research has documented that laws to limit bulk sales reduce gun trafficking. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of Virginia's law showed that for guns recovered in crime in the Northeast and traced, the odds that a gun was purchased in Virginia relative to gun dealers elsewhere in the Southeast were reduced 66 percent after the law took effect (Weil, p. 1760).
The Virginia State Crime Commission concluded: "Virginia's one-gun-a-month statute has had its intended effect of reducing Virginia's status as a source state for gun trafficking. The imposition of the law does not appear to create an onerous burden for law-abiding gun purchasers" (Virginia State Crime Commission, p. 7). According to Helen Fahey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, "Since passage of the legislation, instances of gunrunning have decreased dramatically."
The gun industry seeks to defend itself against gun control advocates by talking about constitutional rights and the preservation of basic American values, essentially the gun industry is in business to make money. (2011) reports that there are approximately 300 gun manufacturers operating in the U.S. who earn a combined profit of $5 billion. Additionally, there are a number of foreign-based companies that sell firearms in the lucrative U.S. market and include some of the more well-known and profitable companies, such as Smith & Wesson (England), Beretta (Italy), Browning (Japan) and Glock (Austria). However, the distinction gets blurred because foreign based companies set up U.S. subsidiaries to get around import restrictions. Moreover, gaining information on these companies is difficult because all but one major gun manufacturer – Sturm, Ruger & Company – are privately owned, and conceal information that is required of publicly traded corporations.
Like the tobacco industry, the firearms industry has come under scrutiny for their culpability in the illegal and violence use of guns. While there have been numerous lawsuits brought by local municipalities against gun manufacturers and gun dealers, they were rendered null and void by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Firearms Act of 2005, which barred lawsuits against the industry as had occurred against the tobacco industry. Overall, the industry has resisted calls by the government to police itself and its dealers.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) estimates that 60% of all crime-related guns originate from one percent of licensed gun dealers, and that in a typical year 85% of licensed gun dealers sell no guns involved in crime; thus it is easy for gun manufacturers to identify those dealers who may be acting unethically by profiting from the illegal gun trade. However, when gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson sought to establish a code of conduct for the dealers it did business with, the CEO Ed Schultz and the company were vilified by the NRA and fellow gun manufacturers, leading Schultz to resign and the company to abandon its attempt to enforce a code of conduct. Former gun industry lawyer Robert Ricker likewise has noted that the firearms industry is well aware of the diversion of gun to the illegal market and yet has vigorously closed ranks in its attempt to distance itself from any accountability, knowledge or involvement in that market.
In Feb 2003, Ricker made a sworn affidavit which read in part: “The firearms industry … has long known that the diversion of firearms from legal channels of commerce to the illegal black market … occurs principally at the distributor/dealer level … However … leaders in the industry have consistently resisted taking constructive voluntary action to prevent firearms from ending up in the illegal gun market and have sought to silence others in the industry who have advocated reform”.
One gives tacit aid when someone knows that there is a crime going on, yet fails to act to stop the crime. You can justify in your conscience that you are not actively involved, but as the old saying goes: "if you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem". If you are closing your eyes to crime, you are just as much a part of the problem.
See also:
  • Weil, Doug and Rebecca Knox, Effects of Limiting Handgun Purchases on Interstate Transfer of Firearms, Journal of the American Medical Association 275 (1996):1759-1761
  • Virginia State Crime Commission, Report of the Virginia State Crime Commission to the Governor and the General Assembly of Virginia: Virginia's Law on Handgun Purchase Limits, Richmond, VA: Virginia State Crime Commission. 1996 (House Document No. 28)

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