A Court Decision That Uses The Gun Industry’s Own Fiction Against It.

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Right after the Sandy Hook massacre, both New York and Connecticut passed laws that tightened up restrictions on owning ‘black’ guns, a.k.a., the military-style AR rifles like the type Adam Lanza used to kill 26 adults and young kids.  The laws basically toughened the earlier assault weapons bans, provoking immediate outcries from the pro-gun gang who challenged the laws based on their inalienable 2nd-Amendment rights.  After all, the 2008 Heller decision protected private ownership of all guns that are “in common use,” and what could be more common than AR rifles of which probably more than four million have been manufactured over the last twenty years?

bushmaster logo2                The gun industry began promoting black guns in the 1990s when they realized that hunting and traditional sporting use of guns was dying out.  This promotion took two forms: on the one hand creating the fiction that black guns, like all guns protected us from crime; on the other hand creating the equally beguiling fiction that military-style weapons were no different from other, traditional rifles since they could only be fired in semi-automatic mode.

The industry went so far as to create an entirely new shooting tradition, replacing the phrase

‘assault rifle’ with the nomenclature ‘modern sporting rifle’ so as to pretend that an AR-15 is nothing other than the same, old hunting gun that sportsmen have for generations been taking out to the woods.  And for those who like to imagine themselves mowing down ISIS or Al Queda in the streets and alleys of Philadelphia or New York, the guns being sold by Bushmaster, Colt, Stag and other black-gun manufacturers are referred to as ‘tactical’ weapons, which everyone knows is simply an assault rifle with a different name.

Both the CT and NY laws were challenged and upheld in District Court; now the Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, has upheld both laws again.  What is interesting about this decision, indeed remarkable, is the fact that it is based not just on the government’s authority to regulate guns that are in “common use,” but to regulate these particular types of weapons based on their definition as created and promoted by the gun industry itself!  The Circuit Court accepted the notion that black guns are just another type of sporting rifle, and it was the acknowledgement that black guns are no different from other types of sporting guns that ultimately legitimized the assault-rifle bans in Connecticut and New York.

Plaintiffs in this case argued that there were more than four million AR-15 rifles owned by civilians and that these guns, like other civilian weapons, could only be fired in semi-automatic mode.  As the Court said, “This much is clear: Americans own millions of the firearms that the challenged legislation prohibits.” Further, the Court also accepted the notion that many Americans keep an AR-15 in their home for self-defense.  Given those circumstances, how could the Circuit Court decide that prohibiting civilian ownership of such weapons was not a violation of 2nd-Amendment rights?  Because what the Court did was take the gun industry’s own fiction about these guns and stand it on its head.

The industry’s marketing of black guns as ‘sporting’ rifles is based on one thing and one thing only; namely, these weapons can only be shot in semi-auto mode.  Never mind that you can deliver up to 60 rounds of ammunition in thirty seconds or less; never mind that the .223 round has a lethality specifically designed to kill or injure human targets; never mind that many military and law enforcement units also deploy the semi-auto gun.  That residents in New York and Connecticut can own all kinds of semi-automatic rifles which do not contain certain military-style features means that the ban on AR-style rifles is not a prohibition of semi-automatic weapons at all.

As a noted Supreme Court justice once said, “History also has its claims.” And one of those claims is that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t give the gun industry the right to invent a tall tale to justify how it tries to sell guns.



Wal Mart Stops Selling ARs Because They Just Aren’t Modern Sporting Guns.


The bubble has finally burst.  Wal Mart has announced that they will stop selling AR-15 rifles as they make way for their Fall hunting line thats reflect what the company referred to as “hunting-driven Fall product mix.”  The company also confirmed that black gun sales have lagged behind sales of cheaper guns and rejected the idea that the decision was anything other than an inventory correction due to seasonal changes in consumer demand.

bushmaster logo2                Hey – wait a minute!  I thought the whole point of buying an AR was because it was a hunting rifle. After all, wasn’t it the NSSF that launched a whole campaign based on the idea that the AR wasn’t a military weapon but was something called a ‘modern sporting rifle?’  And wasn’t the whole point of the modern sporting rifle to peddle the idea that the AR was nothing other than a dumbed-down version of the military gun which could be enjoyed for sport hunting just like any other sporting gun?

The truth is that calling the AR a ‘sporting rifle’ is nothing but a complete and conscious lie.  What’s sporting about a gun that can fire 40 rounds of military-grade ammo as quickly as you can pull a trigger 40 times?  What’s sporting about a gun whose design allows you to tape two mags together, pull one out, reverse and insert the other and get off another 40 rounds in a few seconds more?  And what’s sporting about a rifle which, in the same, semi-auto version, is carried by our military in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe that the issue of gun violence rests on whether civilians can buy or own military-style guns.  I own both an AR and an AK, I have hi-cap magazines for both, the mis-use of such weapons accounts for a tiny percentage of the people who are killed and wounded each year by guns.  My problem with the promotional crap around the gun is that it’s just another way in which the industry tries to convince current and potential customers that a gun is a necessary and effective way for self-defense against crime.  Companies that sell AR rifles, Bushmaster, Smith & Wesson and Stag, go out of their way to blur the line between sporting and tactical, the latter a polite way of saying that guns can be used to kill people as opposed to various four-legged creatures wandering around in the woods.

The funny thing about Wal Mart’s decision to yank black guns is that the company recently won a court case which, had they lost, would have probably meant the end of AR sales after all. The country’s largest retailer was taken to Federal Court by one of its shareholders, New York’s Trinity Church, who wanted the right to let the Board decide whether they were selling any products that could cause harm to the community and therefore negatively impact the value of company stock.  Wal Mart had also previously been pressured by Shannon Watts and the Moms to take guns off their shelves.

It’s one thing to get a company like Starbucks to request that customers forego bringing guns into their cafes; after all, when you sell a cup of boiled water with a little taste of coffee beans for three bucks, you’re not usually catering to the gun-owning crowd.  But what could be more American, more traditional values, more Main Street than a Wal Mart store? A few years ago I drove Route 2 all the way across North Dakota and Montana and there was a Wal Mart in every third town. You can’t tell me that the average shopper in those stores cared one whit about whether an AR would be used for sporting or anything else.

Here’s the bottom line on Wal Mart’s decision to yank black guns out of their stores.  It’s not as if they’ll bring them back once hunting season comes to an end.  And as far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guns.

Guns Sales Have Tanked And Here’s The Reason Why

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Guess what?  The great surge in gun sales that started after Obama was re-elected and then spiked when a national gun bill was pushed (but defeated) after Sandy Hook has come to a jarring end.   Smith & Wesson just announced its results for the quarter ending July 31 and earnings dropped 45% with sales revenues off by more than 20%.  The biggest revenue tumble occurred in “black” guns, aka modern sporting rifles, aka Ar-15s, aka assault rifles which, according to company documents, accounted for 87% of the total sales decline.  But even more interesting was the fact that product inventory increased by more than 20% from the end of the previous quarter, which means that more and more guns are simply sitting unsold on factory shelves.

Smith & Wesson’s stock price shot up from $2.50 in September, 2011 to $16.68 in June of this year, an increase which reflected the surge in gun demand before and particularly after the massacre at Sandy Hook.  During roughly the same period, the value of Sturm, Ruger stock also increased more than four times. These were heady days in the gun business, with a demand outrunning supply for every type of gun.

assault                But that was then and this is now.  While the gun industry tried to explain this surge as due primarily to new customers (women, millennials, urbanites) coming into the shooting marketplace, the hard, cold facts are that most of the recent sales of guns ended up in the hands of people who already owned guns and were therefore more sensitive to the possibility that gun legislation might take their precious toys away.  The NSSF recently published the results of a membership survey which claims that target shooters are increasingly younger, female and urban-based.  But the report conspicuously avoids any discussion about whether the number of people participating in target shooting is going up or down.  Here’s a hint: Smith & Wesson’s quarterly report noted that the only type of guns for which sales increased in the last quarter were small, concealable polymer pistols.  You might want to take your new pocket pistol to the range once to make sure it works, but if the NSSF considers such people to be getting into “target shooting,” then I can say that I’m following my diet between meals.

The gun industry began pretending that assault-style rifles were “modern sporting rifles” because they were encountering resistance from family-oriented chains like Cabela’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods  who felt that black guns didn‘t have the wholesome image that stores which considered themselves to be family shopping destinations wanted to project.  I happen to be the person who, in 2009, donated the URL www.modernsportingrifle.com, which I owned, to the NSSF.  I gave them the rights to use the URL at the 2009 Shot Show and in our discussions that preceded the transfer their counsel made it clear that this was part of a marketing plan to align black guns with mainstream consumer tastes.  Given what has happened to sales of assault rifles in the last several months, it looks like the mainstream and the black gun stream have parted ways.

I’m not surprised at this recent turn of events as regards the sale of guns.  You can justify gun ownership as important for self-defense, as representing liberty and justice for all, as protecting hearth and home, but a majority of Americans don’t own guns, and the industry hasn’t been able to figure out a marketing message that explains to non-gun owners why they should change their views.  The real trick, however, is to get all the non-gun owners to be as committed about regulating guns as the gun owners are committed to making sure that more gun regulation doesn’t take place. Because there’s always the possibility that sooner or later there’s going to be another high-profile shooting and Smith & Wesson’s stock price will take off again.