Where to place the blame for mass shootings

We should finally make gun manufacturers responsible.

Who do you blame for the mass killings in Dayton and El Paso?

If you’re a Democrat, you blame the National Rifle Association (NRA) and President Trump, whose recent racist rhetoric seems to encourage white supremacists.

If you’re an NRA supporter, you blame a lack of guns in society that could have stopped these shootings by deranged individuals. Here’s the NRA’s official statement: “The NRA said it will work ‘in good faith to pursue real solutions that protect us all from people who commit these horrific acts.’” (Adrianne Haney, “NRA Will Not ‘Politicize’ Mass Shootings, Will Work in ‘Good Faith’ to Find Solutions.” AP: 8/4/19) These words are meaningless, just as they have been in the hundreds of previous shootings.

There is another place to place blame: the gun manufacturers. Here’s a quote from a 2013 article in Business Insider by Walt Hickey called “How the Gun Industry Funnels Tens of Millions of Dollars To the NRA”:

“‘The NRA is a virtual subsidiary of the gun industry’, said Josh Sugarman, executive director of the Violence Policy Center. ‘While the NRA portrays itself as protecting the ‘freedom’ of individual gun owners, it’s actually working to protect the freedom of the gun industry to manufacture and sell virtually any weapon or accessory.’”

According to Hickey, there are two reasons for the gun industry’s subsidy of the NRA: 1) To develop and maintain a market for its products, and, 2) To absorb criticism in times of public relations crises (such as the Dayton and El Paso massacres). It seems like the gun industry’s tactic has been very successful. Rarely is the gun industry mentioned by the media in times like these.

Over half of the NRA’s income is from weapons manufacturers.

At one time the NRA was a “grassroots social club” that prided itself on being independent of all corporate influence. No more. Income from the gun manufacturers comes in different forms: In 2010 the NRA made 10 percent of its revenue from selling industry advertising. Some companies like Crimson Trace, a laser sights manufacturer, donate 10 percent of each sale. Taurus buys an NRA membership for every purchaser of their guns. Sturm Rugar donates $1 for each gun that it sells. These contributions number in the millions of dollars, according to Hickey.

Look for any mention of gun manufacturers being held responsible in the El Paso and Dayton massacres. You won’t find much because the NRA takes the heat for them. That’s by design.

This practice of deflection is common for many major corporations today. Profits are more important than morality and the public good. Capitalism only works if it is carefully regulated. Unfortunately, with the current federal administration, we have hired the fox to guard the henhouse.

Hickey recommends that gun manufacturers be brought before Congressional hearings just like the big tobacco companies were forced to do 20 or so years ago. Why haven’t Democrats called them to account? They control the House of Representatives after all. The answer is that both political parties are afraid of gun manufacturers and their political power.

We certainly can blame Trump and his racist rhetoric for the recent mass shootings, but until the power of big gun manufacturers is reigned in, nothing much is going to change in America. Americans have had their sights set on the wrong target. As anyone who has shot a gun knows, to hit your target, you have to be able to aim at it. We are looking to place the blame in all the wrong places. The massacres will continue, perhaps in your local grocery store, or school, or public event. Life has become a question, “Will I become the next shooting victim?” It’s time to demand that our politicians target the big gun manufacturers and stop this insanity and mayhem.


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Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
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