As so often happens when dealing with the fickle public, the aftermath of the news of the second worst school massacre in US history has led to precisely the opposite outcome to the one desired by the media and at least part of the general population. Because in the backlash for gun control at its tamest, and against weapon ownership of any kind at its most rabid, driven primarily by those who don't own weapons, everyone else decided to think one step ahead and preempt what may soon be yet another governmental subjugation of a constitutional amendment. The result? An absolute surge in weapon sales in the days following last Friday's tragedy.
The Guardian reports:
Karl Durkheimer is more coy than might be expected of a man with a pistol on his hip.
Durkheimer's gun shop looks to have enjoyed record sales of semi-automatics – "modern sporting rifles", as he calls them – and handguns at the weekend. But he doesn't want to talk specific numbers.
Nor is he terribly keen to speculate on the causes of the sudden demand. But he acknowledges that it probably has everything to do with a man killing two people with an assault rifle last week in a Portland shopping mall less than 10 minutes drive away, and Friday's massacre of 20 small children and seven adults on the other side of the country in Connecticut.
"Handgun sales are up substantially and modern sporting rifles are up astronomically," he said after a few days when his shop, Northwest Armory, was packed with buyers sizing up the most popular pistol in the US, the Glock, and the military-style AR-15 assault rifle, which also comes with a pink stock for women. "The people you see are twofold. There are first-time buyers who are in fear of what the future will bring. But most of what you saw is people hedging their bets that there might be a political policy put forward by the liberal side of the government."
Durkheimer means his shoppers fear that the shock of the Newtown, Connecticut, killings might cause the public and Congress to support a reinstatement of the ban on some of his most popular lines.
That's a picture replicated across the US from California to Louisiana, and even in Newtown where Robert Caselnova said his gun shop saw high demand for assault rifles in the days after the killings. The nationwide increase in sales was reflected in longer than usual delays for legally required background checks which in some cases took hours rather than minutes.
The surge in sales is not unusual. Following a mass killing at a Colorado cinema in July, applications to buy guns rose more than 40% in a week. The murder two years ago of six people during an assassination attempt against congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was badly wounded, prompted a 60% increase in gun sales in a single day in Arizona.
And while we have been following the slow and steady rise in gun sales, punctuated by two key events which have sent gun sales soaring, namely the Obama election and reelection, the pick up in sales seen last weekend is unprecedented. And to confirm fears that whether by way of the Second Amendment or not, various chains may halt gun sales, earlier today we got confirmation from Dick's Sporting Goods that they have suspended sales of rifles nationwide:
Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. (DKS), the largest U.S. sporting-goods chain, has suspended sales of modern sporting rifles in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, as the community mourns victims of the massacre.
Sales of all guns have been stopped at its store closest to the shooting, the Coraopolis, Pennsylvania-based company said today in an e-mailed statement.
Dick’s is pulling the products after 26 people -- mostly children -- were killed during a Dec. 14 shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown. The chain, which has more than 500 stores in the U.S., sells guns and ammunition in stores and not online, according to its website.
“We are extremely saddened by the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week,” the company said in the statement. Dick’s is removing the guns “out of respect for the victims and their families.”
Noble gesture, to be sure, but all it is really doing is leading to even greater sales at all other gun retailer outlets. And indeed, as fears that more and more companies may halt sales, the scramble to weaponize themselves, will keep Americans busy for days and weeks to come.
On the question of how gun owners see last Friday's tragedy, the Guardian had this to add:
The buyers regard the Newtown killings as a tragedy, but view any connection to their right to own weapons as a political ploy aimed at depriving them of their guns.
"It's terrible what happened. It's just plain evil," said Richard Merritt on the steps of the gun shop after browsing assault rifles with a thought to buying himself one for Christmas to supplement the handguns and hunting rifle he owns.
"But there's people trying to use that to say I'm responsible because I own a gun. Where's the connection? The only people making one are doing it for political ends because there's not one of these massacres would ever have been stopped by a law that takes my gun away. But now they're talking about doing that again, I think this may be the time to buy."
Durkheimer is sick of gun owners being painted as the problem. Like many, he feels demonised and vilified for the crimes of a few because he enjoys hunting and shooting ranges. That puts him on the defensive when groups campaigning for tightened gun regulation might be better off trying to win him over with assurances that their calls to restrict the sale of assault rifles and magazines that hold large numbers of bullets won't end with the confiscation of handguns and hunting rifles.
"It's just another thing that will drive a wedge between us. Instead of the United States being a melting pot it's more polarised," he said.
Well, class warfare in the US is nothing new. And of course, what is most ironic, is that it is precisely the fear of forced, unilateral rejection, by either or all three branches of government, of the original constitution and its various amendments that has Americans scrambling into gun stores. And thus the closed loop nature of the problem: by threatening to take away America's guns, the government is only exacerbating a problem that is steeped in 200+ years of history and is engrained deep in American psychology.
What is the solution?
We don't know, but we do know that the government stepping in confident it can and will fix and regulate everything is precisely what will only make the problem far, far worse.
We do know that heart of the problem is far, far deeper than one or more tragic mass shootings can reveal. In fact the full extent of the problem begins to be unmasked courtesy of the chart we showed yesterday, and which was to be found, ironically enough, in the most recent Smith and Wesson investor presentation.