The National Rifle Association (NRA) website does not report the size of the gun industry in the United States.
However, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports this country manufactured 2.8 million pistols and revolvers, plus 2.6 million rifles and shotguns in 2010. Our exports totaled 225,200 such weapons while we imported 2.8 million. Thus, in 2010, we added about 8.2 million firearms to our national armory (or closets), less whatever number of guns were really lost or destroyed.
For 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reports 20,600 workers manufactured small firearms and their ammunition, earning $1.1 billion to process $3.4 billion in materials. In 2012, 678 wholesale establishments sold $8.6 billion in firearms, ammunition and other “hunting” related supplies. (What the pistol and revolver buyers wanted to hunt is a matter for their psycho-therapists.)
Here the data become murky. As reported by the Census Bureau, in 2012, nearly 21,000 “sporting goods stores,” including gun shops, paid out $4.6 billion in wages and salaries to approximately 225,000 employees. Those stores sold $44 billion worth of goods. But, what portion of that was for small firearms and ammunition?
For a complete picture of the gun industry in our economy, we need to add-in gun show and on-line sales plus expenditures for police, health and funeral workers who are employed in response to gun violence. We might also attempt to quantify the value of the lives lost/saved annually by firearms.
There is also a new social benefit of gun ownership to consider.
The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution still reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court held that this right, “to keep and bear Arms,” does not depend on the gun-owner being part of “a well regulated Militia.”
Now, with 42 states allowing 8.1 million persons to carry concealed weapons, we hear NRA Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, say, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
This statement implies carrying a gun is a public service, a position consistent with the Second Amendment. The right of citizens to keep and bear arms exists, not only for protection of themselves and their families, but can be extended to the protection of others, as if there were a well-regulated militia.
Gun-carrying good guys in a food court can protect others eating there from the dangers of a gun-carrying bad guy. Don’t we want to know who the good guys are so we can sit near them with our families? These good guys are there to serve the public in times of danger, like fire-hydrants and emergency call-boxes,.
Therefore, the license-to-carry should require good guys to wear distinctive tall hats, easily seen at a distance, so the public will know who protects us when the bad guys come around. Will the NRA support this public-spirited initiative?
Mr. Marcus is an economist, writer, and speaker who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.