On the heels of the deadliest mass shooting in American history in Las Vegas, gun control is again a hot topic of discussion. Although incidents, such as the one in Las Vegas, clearly act as catalysts for arguments around gun violence and potential remedies, little ever seems to happen.
The majority of Americans are on board with some type of reform. That doesn’t mean Americans support an Australia-like purge of firearms, in which the government literally disarmed the public. But rather, most people support universal background checks or limits on magazine sizes. But there’s no guarantee that stricter gun laws would translate to a safer America. Those who have looked into it have come away unconvinced that clamping down on gun sales or implementing other measures would have a noticeable effect.
But the most remarkable thing is we don’t even try. Our politicians appear to be unwilling to even attempt to craft legislation to stop gun violence. Without fail, the debate seems to get shut down almost immediately by calls to not “politicize” the tragedy.
Why is that? Who’s behind it? There is a lot of economic and business might pushing back. And when you dig into the numbers, it becomes increasingly clear that might is stronger than the push for change.
The following numbers go a long way toward explaining why our national gun control laws remain so lax. Our first number: $13.5 billion, a figure that’s hard to ignore.
- This figure represents the annual revenue for gun and ammo manufacturers.
According to IBIS World, the gun industry is quite big. Annually, it drives in more than $13 billion in revenues, with approximately $1.5 billion of that as pure profits. Likewise, stores that sell guns and ammo at the retail level also make a killing. Another IBIS World report puts annual revenues in the billions, too. The point is there is a lot of money to be made from the manufacturing and sales of guns and ammunition, which tells us there is a market and powerful market players.
Next: The astounding number of firearms produced on an annual basis in the U.S.
- This is the number of guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2013.
In order to drive billions in revenue, gun makers need to kick out millions of guns — or more than 10 million every year, per 2013 data. Numbers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show gun manufacturers built more than 10.8 million firearms in 2013 alone. Digging further into the data, we can see the majority of those firearms were handguns (4.44 million) and rifles (3.9 million). It also includes 1.2 million shotguns and 725,000 revolvers. Approximately 4% of the total was exported to other countries.
Next: A peek at what happens to gun stocks following a mass shooting
7.7% and 6%
- This is the rise in the stock prices of Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson the morning following the Las Vegas massacre.
Just like every other industry, firearms companies are subject to the whims of the market. That means they have to worry about stock prices and shareholders. Fortunately for gun makers, gun violence tends to correlate with a surge in their stock prices. After the Las Vegas shooting, for example, some gun companies saw their stock prices rise nearly 8%. Why? The main reason is people think stricter gun control laws will be implemented in the wake of large-scale shootings, and they rush out to buy more guns. Increased demand causes stocks to rise.
Next: How much money flows from pro-gun lobbyists to our elected officials?
- This is the amount spent by the gun lobby pushing for expanded gun rights in 2016.
The 2016 election cycle was like others. The gun lobby poured money into a number of races with expectations that the candidates it was backing would support gun rights and stop any attempts at implementing stricter gun control. All told, the gun lobby spent more than $10.5 million. So far in 2017, the tally is up to $5.7 million. But going through the data, one year clearly stands out: 2013. That year, the year following Sandy Hook, $15.2 million was spent.
Next: How the National Rifle Association plays into the picture
- This is the amount the NRA spent during the 2016 election cycle to back Republican candidates.
The NRA is as controversial of an organization as they come. The group’s stated purpose is to fight for gun rights and teach responsible gun ownership, but it’s morphed into an industry-backing lobbyist organization as much as anything. And it brings in a ton of cash. As discussed earlier, donations tend to skyrocket for the NRA following mass shootings. The organization then spends that money trying to influence policy and policymakers, among other things. Just in 2016, the NRA spent $52 million backing pro-gun candidates, including $30.3 million in support of Donald Trump.
After Sandy Hook, NRA contributions and grants increased 11.5% year-over-year. That’s just an example of how mass shootings impact the NRA’s bottom line.
Next: The size of the market speaks to the size of the industry.
31% and 357 million
- This is the estimated number of American households with a firearm and the total number of guns in the U.S.
Now we’ll return to the overall size of the market. And these two numbers (31% and 357 million) should tell you one thing: There’s a big market for guns. They represent the estimated percentage of American households that own a firearm (31%) and the estimated total number of firearms in the U.S. And yes, there are more guns than people in America, if these figures prove correct. Interestingly, a relatively small number of people tend to own the most guns. Half of the guns in the country are owned by 3% of the population. That means 3 out of 100 Americans are sitting on a vast arsenal of one type or another.
Next: A number that eclipses them all
The $229 billion argument for tougher gun control laws
- This is the total economic impact of gun-related violence in the U.S. in 2012.
If there’s a statistical argument to be made for stricter gun control, it’ll include this number. As of 2012, the total economic impact of gun-related violence in the U.S. added up to $229 billion. That’s more — way more — than overall market size. And annual revenues and profits only add up to a fraction of that figure. The number comes from a report by Mother Jones and includes legal fees, medical treatment costs, police investigations, and prison costs, among other things.
The kicker? 87% of that $229 billion ends up being paid by the taxpayers.
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