Economic impact should not deter US gun control efforts

Economic impact should not deter US gun control efforts

The guns and accessories Stephen Paddock used in the Vegas attack – including bump stock – were capable of shooting over 400 rounds a minute. The left and the right are united in questioning the legality of devices like the one Paddock used to transform a semiautomatic into an automatic weapon. But with the US firearms industry estimated to be worth $50 billion, some are asking what the economic impact of tighter gun control would be.

‘Sensible’ gun control policy

After the 2012 shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, the state attempted a drastic transformation of their gun laws, including banning high-capacity ammunition magazines and background checks for private gun sales. Nevada may head in a similar direction, but bump stocks and assault-style weapons may now become a target of federal law.

Significantly, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has called for a government review on the legality of ‘bump stock’ accessories, which transform a semi-automatic weapon’s capability into an almost entirely automatic one. They announced that devices such as bump stocks should be ‘subject to additional regulations’, and advised that the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives should review whether the devices comply with federal laws. 

Washington lawmakers on the left as well as the right have expressed readiness to consider a ban on bump stocks or similar devices. Senator John Cornyn, House Representative Carlos Curbelo, and House Speaker Paul Ryan are a few of the Republicans who are making an effort to investigate the devices and provide a ‘sensible’ gun policy.

The NRA’s support of tighter restrictions on these types of devices demonstrates the significance of the mass shooting; the group and its right-wing politician supporters have, for years, defended the right of US citizens to purchase weapons, even in the wake of other similar shootings. 

A massive industry

The US firearms and ammunition industry grew to $51.3 billion by 2016, and employs over 300,000 people, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) Economic Impact Report. This figure is a 168% increase from the industry’s 2008 economic impact, which then stood at $19.1 billion. It paid roughly $7.4 billion in federal and state taxes in 2016, according to the NSSF Report.

Around 30% of adults own the 310 million guns in the United States. In Nevada, 38% of adults own guns, and private gun sales are legal. The NSSF estimates there are between 5 to 8.2 million assault-style weapons in the United States. After the shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in 2012, sales of these weapons increased rapidly due to fears of future bans. Still, assault rifles make up only 2-3% of firearms owned in the US.   

Given these figures, a ban on bump stocks or similar appendages would not significantly damage the firearms industry. A ban on semi-automatic and other assault-style rifles would obviously have a greater effect, but would still be far from catastrophic. Individuals could purchase other firearms for sport or protection; in other words, sales of non-automatic firearms could continue.

Going further?

Gun control advocates will persist in fighting for assault-style firearm bans; according to a study conducted by Time Magazine, 56% of non-gun owners believe further restrictions on legal gun sales would result in fewer mass shootings, with 29% of gun owners agreeing.

Investigators are still searching for Paddock’s motivation; but motivation isn’t the issue. The problem is the ease of purchasing assault-style weapons in the United States. Based on the trajectory of shootings in the United States, this is not the last mass shooting that will occur. If not addressed seriously, these incidents will continue to increase in frequency. Legislation terminating the sales of the deadlier, assault-style weapons would reduce these tragedies without hurting the firearms industry.

Tags: gun control, Trump, US

About Author

Sophie Snook

Sophie graduated from the University of St Andrews with joint honors in International Relations and Philosophy. She has been dedicating her research to the Middle East, in particular political and security issues the region faces. She previously worked on coding terror incidents for an online terrorism database run by a US think tank, and spent over a year as a country risk analyst with a British security and consultancy firm.