Most Americans would be shocked at what the gun industry has become. Six-shot revolvers and hunting rifles and shotguns have been replaced by high-caliber “pocket rocket” concealed carry pistols and military bred assault weapons: ranging from AR-15 assault rifles, to AK-47 assault pistols, to 50 caliber sniper rifles that can penetrate armor plating from a mile away and down jetliners on takeoff and landing. In today’s militarized gun industry, frequently the only difference between guns used in the field of battle and those sold on the civilian market is that the guns in soldiers’ hands can fire in automatic mode (firing bullets as long as the trigger is depressed or in three-shot bursts) while those in civilian hands are semiautomatic (firing only one bullet per trigger pull) — essentially a distinction without a difference.
The fact is that under federal law virtually anyone with a credit card and no felony convictions can legally outfit their own army. At the same time, in the face of long-term declining household gun ownership, the firearms industry, in partnership with the National Rifle Association, is following a marketing trail blazed by the tobacco industry: targeting children, women, and minority groups as new customers and hoped-for political foot soldiers.
Guns are the only consumer product manufactured in the United States that are not subject to federal health and safety regulation. All other products that Americans use or come into contact with are regulated by a federal health and safety agency. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates household and recreational products such as toasters, lawn mowers, and toys (including toy guns). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the safety of food and prescription drugs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulates motor vehicles. Yet, as a direct result of the power of the gun lobby, firearms escaped safety regulation in the 1970s when the U.S. Congress created the major product safety agencies. This unique exemption has allowed the firearms industry to innovate for lethality rather than safety. (And in the case of defective firearms, unlike other products no federal mechanism exists to force a recall or design change.) As a result, today’s gun industry thrives on developing, manufacturing, and marketing highly militarized firearms with these weapons’ military pedigree and battlefield applications frequently cited in their marketing to the civilian population. The bottom line is that under federal law, if a gun is semiautomatic, is 50 caliber or less, and (in the case of rifles and shotguns) has a minimum barrel length, the gun industry can make and market anything it wants. In addition, many firearms are designed and sold without basic safety devices that could prevent unintentional discharge and some types of misuse. For example, manufacturers are free to design and sell guns that are easy for small children to shoot. But the gun industry’s exemption from health and safety regulation prevents any federal entity from taking action to prevent such tragedies.
Overall, the impact of this lethal design, manufacture, and marketing shift can be measured in the tens of thousands of Americans who die from guns each year in the United States (more than 36,000 in 2015): from mass shootings involving semiautomatic firearms with high-capacity ammunition magazines to homicides and suicides facilitated by increased firepower. At the same time, defective firearms remain on the market while minor design changes that could be required under a regulatory mechanism — such as magazine disconnects, load indicators, and increased trigger pull — are subject to the whims of manufacturers. This increase in firepower in civilian hands also impacts the manner in which police respond to situations potentially involving a firearm while feeding a spiraling arms race between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect.
The Campaign for Gun Industry Accountability will:
- Present new and ongoing research on the many ways the industry exploits its unique lack of health and safety regulation;
- Outline effective solutions to hold firearms to the same health and safety standards as all other consumer products; and,
- Offer tools for action that can be used by advocates, policymakers, organizations, and social influencers to hold the industry accountable and effect change.
The gun industry is making a killing. And we’re the ones who are dying. Americans deserve to live free from the fear of gun violence.
We deserve effective federal, state, and local policies that save lives.
We deserve, and demand, gun industry accountability.