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The Book of the Week is “Gunfight, My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America” by Ryan Busse, published in 2021.
The author’s grandfather’s generation of gun enthusiasts embraced Depression-Era values: “Principles. Safety. Camaraderie. Pride.” He believed in the New Deal, and the then-culture of the National Rifle Association: admiring the craftsmanship and power of firearms, using them safely for hunting, and the challenge of shooting targets consisting of inanimate objects; not the current goal of amassing money and power for the firearms industry and its trade organizations, human lives be damned.
Additionally, every incident is milked for funding demands from law enforcement agencies across the country. And most politicians insincerely grandstand “enough is enough!” but do nothing until dissatisfaction with the status quo reaches critical mass– until there’s a real threat to their reelection. Then, in their campaign, they promise to make relevant legislation a priority.
Anyway, in 1995, the author, born in 1970 and raised out West, began working for the tiny Portland, Oregon rifle company, Kimber. It made and sold high-quality guns to be used for collecting and hunting. Kimber had a checkered past because the big boss was a psycho but nevertheless he truly believed in the product.
The author quickly learned that gun sales have assumed a certain pattern in the United States of the last few decades. Whenever the political climate changes from conservative to liberal or when another unbalanced individual kills people in a highly publicized incident, the firearms industry propaganda machine generates phobia and fury among gun enthusiasts in convincing them that the government is going to take away their instruments of power and masculinity. These impressionable, mostly young males, have the mentality of cultists. They rush out and add to their collections, just in case the vicious rumors are true. The buying frenzy lasts a year or two.
The first major piece of legislation that touched off this angry cycle was the Brady Bill, signed by president Bill Clinton (who was scapegoated by Second Amendment promoters) in November 1993. Then, in September 1994, it was the assault weapons ban, sponsored by then-senator Joe Biden.
However, the bill became Swiss cheese with loopholes because the NRA exerted overwhelming political pressure on power- and donation-hungry Congress members to exempt or grandfather-in more than 650 kinds of firearms. Even so, the little regulation there was, arguably, prevented ten more shootings like “Columbine.” Unfortunately, it is impossible to prove what would have happened otherwise, but judging from what has been happening more and more and more, with almost total absence of preventive measures, some more measures might be helpful.
After 1994, the excitement died down, and gun sales plummeted for the rest of the 1990’s. Struggling financially, Kimber was forced to merge with a firearms distributor which sold cheap plastic handguns– made in South Korea, or with the name Daewoo– that were used in street crime.
The company survived. However, the author reflected on how his industry was desecrating his philosophy (which he shared with his grandfather) when, in the single-digit 2000’s, he brought an industry contact of his to a national park to share in the breathtaking beauty of Montana. The contact was apparently sociopathic because he was able to rationalize away the environmental destruction that would ensue if the land was opened up to oil drilling. The NRA, via political front groups, was aiding and abetting backroom deals as they spoke (!)
In addition, a controversy also raged over whether owners should be allowed to carry concealed weapons, instead of having the world openly see them in a holster. As is well known, in twentieth century history, the kinds of people who armed themselves openly out in public included Nazis, the Red Guard, teenage thugs in Third World countries, and in Soviet satellites after the Berlin Wall fell– during times of strife, civil wars, and genocide.
Americans have never experienced that kind of scene (except in Western or Southern states until they became urbanized and did away with “frontier justice” or Napoleonic justice), and would not expect to, either (except in isolated incidents immediately after 9/11).
The NRA’s argument for allowing people to carry concealed firearms is that they should be allowed to defend themselves, if they are attacked. But, the only reason one would need to defend against attacks, is if one has angry, violent enemies. What is the character of these people who garner such enemies?? Or, if people are targeted in a random shooting, the argument goes that if the targets are armed, they can immediately shoot the shooter to prevent more carnage. Sounds as though NRA members think life is a violent video game, if they expect bullets to fly when they go out in public.
In addition, the NRA’s fear-mongering never ends, as it scares single females into thinking they’re vulnerable to street crime from strangers, if they must pass through high-crime neighborhoods, for whatever reason. And apparently, many people are led to believe that strangers perpetrate home-invasions left and right!
Further, the NRA has whipped up a frenzy of hatred and violence. Once a taboo is broken, it’s easier to break more and more taboos. Excuse the cliche, the fish rots from the head down: when the nation’s leaders behave badly, their underlings copy them in a free-for-all.
Professional baseball discovered that players’ alcohol consumption before and during competitions was bad for revenues in the long run. And not only because it compromises judgment and coordination, but also because fans imitated the players’ behavior, and lawlessness resulted. Eventually, such a revelation will turn the firearms industry around, because profits are one of its major goals. It will be curbed of its own excesses, by allowing regulation, slowly but slowly.
Anyway, in 2008, just to make sure its smear campaign against presidential candidate Barack Obama stuck, the NRA created war-glorifying videos aimed at couch commandos. It became a “… bought-and paid-for wing of the Republican Party…” and in 2016, “The Trump and NRA operations ran identically.” There was no more reason and accountability among supporters of those two. After years of seething silently at what was happening, the author acquired sufficient courage to express his displeasure with it, and advocate against it, even though he knew full well he and his family would be subject to endless harassment for being a traitor.
Read the book to learn more about: the author’s activities; a case of industry-ostracism of a perceived traitor-company; a victim of cancel culture (hint: besides the author: an old-school gun-industry writer who dared opine in 2007, that using assault weapons for hunting, was overkill); and more on the NRA’s extremely radical behavior, that was ongoing at the book’s writing.