Sandy Hook has brought two new phrases to the conversation about gun violence: “Paradigm shift” and “Watershed moment.” They are not thrown out as media sensationalism … they are being used to describe the public’s unprecedented reaction to this latest senseless massacre. And these phrases don’t come from just the media, they come from gun-related business interests and from the gun community. THAT is the change and that is how we can understand that things are forever different.
First, panic set in the gun community. The NRA shut down its Facebook site and went dark for five days. They finally broke their silence to suggest they will “offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” My guess is they heard from that majority of their own members who say they now support at least some new gun regulations. Time will tell.
More visible signs of panic came, not from the gun lobbyists, but from gun buyers. They flooded gun shops and — over a four day period — cleaned out almost every single AR-15, AK-47, and high capacity magazine capable semi-automatic pistol currently on the market. This seems to be driven by the expectation that the Assault Weapons Ban will be reenacted, limiting handguns to 10 rounds (rather than the currently-legal 15-17 rounds). And then there was the ammo … it’s gone. Gun owners also found out something about their local gun shop owners this week … they don’t care about their customers, they care only about their profits, so they raised prices (adding a Panic Tax?) for AR-15 type weapons — more than doubling the price of high capacity magazines and increasing the price of affected ammunition.
And now the supply is near zero. What will be next for the gun community now that they have cleared stock from stores and distributors. We have a clue. In 2008, when the gun manufacturing and gun stores got together with gun fora and bloggers to launch the most successful marketing campaign in their history (Obama’s Gonna Get our Guns!!!) a similar panic set in. And it did not stop. Using AR-15 ammunition as an example, I followed prices for Remington XM 193 prices from 2004 ($.175/round) to today ($.444/round) and more important…it is completely out of stock.
The following posts from gun owners on the Smith-Wesson forum tell the same story.
“I went to my local reloading store Saturday to get a new set of dies. Bob, told me they had done $27,000 in sales (@4:00 pm). Avg. for a “normal” Saturday is around $2,000.” East Texas forum user.
“People were upset that they couldn’t buy three or four AR’s and 20,000 rounds of ammo.” Western Pennsylvania dealer.
The most compelling post from the gun community was not about the massacre, not about panic buying, not about the politics of gun violence. It was closer to home. It was the rejection of a gun owner by his wife … she had, as he explained:
“always been a supporter of me and my shooting, guns, all that. Until now. Last Friday, and the ensuing media blasting and mass hysteria/grieving she has taken a complete 180deg turn…My wife is normally a very unemotional, rational thinker. So for her to get this worked up, I can’t imagine what “normal” people are going through.”
Beyond the lobbyists and the gun community, gun related businesses are reassessing their policies. Dick’s Sporting Goods, with over 500 stores has pulled all “assault weapons,” now known as “sporting guns” from their shelves. It is not known if this is a permanent policy or for the “mourning period” that gun lobbyists defined. On television the Discovery Channel has cancelled American Guns, a reality show based around a family owned gun shop in Colorado…but you can still see photographs of the 16 year old daughter Paige Wyatt modelling firearms on the Discovery website. Further, the Discovery Channel has also cancelled Ted Nugent from their programming. These are just two of the 21 gun related shows on Cable TV.
Blowback continued as Cerberus Capital Management dropped their investment in Freedom Group, the corporate family that includes Bushmaster, Marlin and Remington. Also on the financial front, Smith Wesson stock [SWHC] initially plunged from its pre-Sandy Hook price of $9.94 to $7.67 two days later. Ruger (RGR) prices also dropped, from $47.30 to $40.08. Both are beginning to recover.
You can tell when a problem is extreme when politicians begin to find the nearest microphone to change their position on an issue. The blowback from Sandy Hook has been no different. From Joe Scarborough’s emotional announcement to Sen. Marco Rubio’s office which released the statement:
“[Rubio remains a] “strong supporter of the Second Amendment right to safely and responsibly bear arms. But he has also always been open to measures that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.”
And West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin tweeted:
“This awful massacre has changed where we go from here. Our conversation should move beyond dialogue.”
Decades of intractable attitude by the gun community has left them in an untenable position…change attitudes to reflect the realities of the 21st Century or stand on the sidelines as Middle America, that group that is neither pro or anti gun makes the decisions.
The gun community, as early as 2008, began inadvertently taxing themselves as they panicked and began buying and hoarding guns, ammunition and high capacity magazines, triggering a constant escalation of prices due to supply and demand. They did so on the fear that “Obama is going to get our guns.” 36 mass murder events, the killing of over 600 police officers, the over 2000 children under 12 killed by guns since has redefined the worry. It is not Obama that is going to limit their gun choice, it is other citizens, armed with the frustration of too many killings of too many people that have nothing to do with hunting, nothing to do with self defense, nothing to do with the hobby of target shooting or collecting. THEY have asked their political leaders to step up and make a change.
That is the ultimate blowback of too many years of intractability.