Gun Control: Manipulating the Public for Profit

Sometimes the best advertising isn’t advertising at all.

Every time we have a mass shooting in the US, there is a cry for reform of laws allowing access to guns.   The clamor increases gun sales, but doesn’t result in any changes in public policy.  It can’t.

Why not?  It’s simple.  No one on any side of the gun control issue has made concrete proposals for any changes in public policy.  The entire discussion has stayed at the high level of symbolic politics.  Unless there is a proposal on which to act, nothing will happen.  Period.

So why the clamor if there’s no substance.  The Economist points out that the only winners in the gun control debate in the US are gun manufacturers, whose sales and stock prices have risen with the “controversy.”   The stock of these companies has outperformed consistently the S&P 500 index for the last several years.

Without the controversy, gun sales would have flat-lined.  After all, there are more guns than people in the US now.   How many guns does someone really need?

“Need” is probably the wrong term.  Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to be victims of violent crime.  However, as Pew documented in 2014, most households with guns are white, conservative and Republican.   The people buying guns appear to be those at the least risk of needing them for protection.

From a devil’s advocate point-of-view, inciting and maintaining a gun control controversy is a brilliant advertising strategy for gun manufacturers.   The manufacturer can reach more people through the controversy than it ever could through any media ads.  Chasing  consumers into gun shops or outdoor stores is the first step.  The sales people in the store will get them to the manufacturer.  That’s the way gun sales have worked for decades.  The “gun control controversy” is one of the most effective programs for getting consumers flocking into stores ever invented.

Of course, you can quibble with the morals of companies marketing this way.  However, as has been said many times, money has no morals.

(Note: an earlier version of this blog appeared on Linked-In today)

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