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.”

Florida, standing its ground, will allow guns at the Republican convention

Bernd Debusmann
May 7, 2012 17:11 UTC

File this under the rubric Only in America – sticks, poles and water guns will be banned from the centre of Tampa at the Republican Party’s national convention next August. Guns, however, will be allowed. The logic behind that is drawn from the U.S. constitution. How so?

The constitution’s second amendment protects the right of citizens to “keep and bear arms”  and that is taken to mean firearms. Sticks, poles and water guns do not enjoy constitutional protection. That, in a nutshell, is the argument the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, used to turn down a request by the mayor of Tampa for guns to be kept away, just for four days, from an event forecast by the organizers to draw at least 50,000 people to the city.

They will include thousands bent on demonstrating against the policies of Mitt Romney, who will be formally nominated as the Republican Party’s candidate for the presidential elections in November. Political conventions and protests make for a volatile mix, which is why Mayor Bob Buckhorn thought the downtown area near the convention center should be a gun-free zone.

America’s Wild West gun laws

Bernd Debusmann
Mar 23, 2012 16:59 UTC

The killing of a black teenager by a self-appointed vigilante in Florida has trained a spotlight on gun laws reminiscent of the Wild West in 24 U.S. states. Despite widespread outrage over the Florida case, gun-friendly senators in Washington want to make it easier to extend those laws to most of the country.

That would set the United States, where there are more firearms in private hands than in any other country, even farther apart from the rest of the industrialized world as far as guns are concerned. And it would mark yet another success for the National Rifle Association (NRA) in its long campaign against gun controls.

Before getting into the details of the planned legislation, a brief recapitulation of what happened in the Orlandosuburb of Sanford on February 26: Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high school student, walked to a family member’s home at night when George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” spotted him, deemed the teenager suspicious, pursued him and shot him dead with a 9 mm pistol after what he told police was an altercation that made him fear for his life.

American riddle: more guns, less violence?

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 6, 2012 15:29 UTC

Gun ownership in the United States is up. Violent crime is down. Is this a matter of cause and effect?

The question merits pondering on the January 8 anniversary of the Arizona mass shooting which killed six people, severely injured a member of congress, Gabrielle Giffords, and rekindled the seemingly endless on-and-off debate over gun regulations in the United States, the country with the greatest number of firearms in private hands.

Judging from the background checks gun dealers filed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), that number jumped by around 1.5 million in December, thanks partly to a spurt of buying around Christmas. For Arizona gun enthusiasts who left firearms out of their Christmas giving, gun shows in Tucson and Phoenix provide another shopping opportunity on the Giffords shooting anniversary.

In America, violence and guns forever

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 14, 2011 15:09 UTC

Another American mass shooting. Another rush to buy more guns.

On the Monday after the latest of the bloody rampages that are part of American life, gun sales in Arizona shot up by more than 60 percent and rose by an average of five percent across the entire country. The figures come from the FBI and speak volumes about a gun culture that has long baffled much of the world.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation compared January 10, 2011, with the corresponding Monday a year ago.

So what would prompt Americans to stock up their arsenals in the wake of the shooting in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 14, including Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman who was the target of an unhinged 22-year-old who has since been charged with attempted assassination?

  •