Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

Guns in America: the business of fear

Bernd Debusmann
Jul 30, 2012 18:41 UTC

Mass shootings are good for the gun business. So are dark warnings from the principal gun lobby in the United States, the National Rifle Association (NRA), that President Barack Obama is leading a global conspiracy to seize an estimated 300 million guns now held by private citizens.

Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter. As they say on Wall Street, perception is reality and the fears the NRA has managed to inspire since Obama’s 2008 election have led to a boom for the American gun industry. At a time of misery for much of the rest of the American economy, growth rates for makers of firearms and ammunition have been impressive. Between 2008 and 2011, jobs in the industry jumped 30 percent.

Sales of guns and ammunition have spiked after each of the mass shootings, which have become a familiar part of American life. The latest massacre, the July 20 killing of 12 people in a crowded cinema in Colorado, prompted a 40 percent jump in sales on the day after the midnight shooting. There was an even sharper spike after last year’s shooting in Arizona that killed six and wounded a dozen others, including a member of CongressGabrielle Giffords.

Why do people rush to buy guns after such bloody incidents? Two reasons, say experts. One is to defend themselves in case they are caught in a shooting and the second, more important, because the media coverage generated by unhinged killers invariably touches the topic of gun control. Fear of future restrictions, fanned without fail by the NRA, drives people to the gun shops.

No matter what one thinks of the NRA and Wayne LaPierre, its leader for more than two decades, his fearmongering has been effective and benefitted both his organization and the gun industry. When he took over the organization in 1991, it was close to bankruptcy. Now, in the words of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the NRA’s most prominent critics, the organization is “a $200 million-plus-a-year lobbying juggernaut with much of its funding coming from gun manufacturers and merchandising.”

America’s Republican extremists

Bernd Debusmann
Jul 20, 2012 16:24 UTC

The United States is in grave danger from domestic enemies:  Infiltrators from the Muslim Brotherhood have wormed their way into sensitive government positions, Communists wield influence in the House of Representatives, and President Barack Obama hates America and is trying to dismantle, brick by brick, the American Dream.

The first two assertions – Muslim infiltrators and Communists in Congress – come from Republican members of Congress. The third comes from the host of the radio talk show with the biggest audience in the United States. All three merit pondering about the current state of the Republican Party, a mainstay of American democracy for more than 150 years.

A brief look at the details of the claims first. In June, Michele Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a radio interview that “it appears there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood.” In letters that came to light in mid-July, she asked the inspectors general of four government departments to launch inquiries into the depth of Muslim penetration.

Why the world needs an arms treaty

Bernd Debusmann
Jul 9, 2012 14:18 UTC

In the past two decades, experts monitoring the international arms trade recorded more than 500 violations of United Nations arms embargoes. Just two have resulted in trials and convictions.

This telling statistic helps explain why diplomats, experts and arms control activists are in New York this month at a U.N.-hosted conference aimed at working out a treaty to regulate a vast market that so far has fewer rules than the trade in bananas. Where high reward-low risk activities are concerned, few can match the international arms trade, licit or illicit.

The contrast between the number of embargo violations and the number of arms dealers held to account comes from a study, to be published later this year, conducted by a team led by James Stewart, a law professor at Canada’s University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Stewart looked into cases, dating back to 1990, that prompted U.N. panels of experts to report violations of embargoes imposed by the U.N. Security Council.

Mexico’s three wars

Bernd Debusmann
Jul 3, 2012 19:02 UTC

Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s president-elect, inherited three wars from his predecessor. Staunching the bloodshed of one would be a huge achievement. Getting the upper hand in all three might require divine intervention.

Three wars? There is the war of choice President Felipe Calderon launched shortly after winning the presidency in 2006, by a razor-thin margin, when he deployed the army against the illicit drug business. That war pits the Mexican military and various security forces against the country’s drug trafficking groups.

Then there is the war the drug traffickers wage against each other for access to the rich markets of the United States, whose citizens have an “insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in 2009.

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