Economics is a field with untold amounts of variables – but what do those variables have to tell us when gun sales spike after every major US shooting?
Supply and demand. At base, these two forces drive all the machinations of economies around the world. While brutally simple, supply and demand can tell us quite a bit about what people in a country value and what they deem meaningless. What, then, do the numbers have to say about America given the surge in gun sales following every major shooting?
While it’s tempting to call it a form of twisted marketing, the reality has more to do with the talks of gun control that arise following the slaughter of innocents rather than gun owners getting a hard-on after seeing the devastating power of an assault rifle in a public space. With the Sandy Hook shootings, the fervor surrounding gun control reached a fever pitch – it seemed that the argument for easily-accessed automatic weapons was finally going to result in stricter gun control.
What happened? Gun manufacturer stocks soared, and people flocked to stock up their personal armament before the big bad government came collecting all their full-metal jacket freedom dispensers. Despite no real regulatory measures being implemented, the people’s fear had spoken – and their greed compelled them to give several gun makers a nice quarterly boost.
Fast-forward to the most recent shooting in Las Vegas, where perpetrator Stephen Paddock unloaded clip after clip out in a fully-automatic slew – killing 58 people and injuring over 546. One would have thought that gun stocks and sales were poised to go through the roof, yet there was hardly a blip.
Although appearing as an anomaly initially, closer evaluation points to the fact that the attack occurred under the Trump administration – and administration that would sooner commit seppuku than earn the ire of many of their most fervent supporters. As such, following the attack there was little to not talk regarding gun control, and things went on their merry way.
Although not necessarily a formal economic term, we can attribute most surges in gun sales over the past few years under the Obama administration to the Streisand Effect. For the uninitiated, the Streisand Effect was first demonstrated when Barba Streisand threw a massive temper tantrum over pictures that a photographer took over her beachside home in Malibu. In effect, her attempts to suppress the image led to it blowing up and going viral in a deliciously sweet example of reverse psychology.
The same can be applied to the phenomenon of gun sales. The more talk there was over regulation, the more purchases were made – even those who didn’t particularly want a weapon but believed they might be much harder to obtain in several years. Ultimately, we need to come to terms over the fact that gun violence and shootings in America are not a gun control issue, but rather a mental health issue.
There are plenty of individuals who possess a veritable armory of weaponry as collectors, but would never dream of piling their guns into a hotel room and firing into a crowd on full-auto for 10 minutes. Until we begin to focus on the root of the problem at hand, we will never truly be able to resolve the issue – and countless more innocents could fall at the hands of someone that has had the misfortune to feel so angry and dejected by the world that revenge against society is the only answer. It’s time that we acknowledged that an individual compelled to behave in such a manner is mentally ill, and needs our help.