In the Wake of Mass Shootings, it's Time to Focus on Gun Manufacturers

Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

As the debate on guns unfolds in the wake of the latest mass shootings, Congress needs to demand greater financial transparency from leading U.S. and European gun companies, including a more forthright accounting of the nature and scope of industry ties to the NRA.

By Michael Posner

The mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last weekend have rekindled the decades-old debate about gun regulation. While the role of the National Rifle Association is central to the debate, far too little attention is being paid to the gun industry itself and its relationship to the NRA. A closer look at the business model of the gun industry and the role that gun manufacturers play in thwarting meaningful restrictions on gun ownership and gun violence is long overdue.

The United States is the prime market for gun makers, including both American and European companies. Leading European gun makers like Beretta and Glock export millions of guns each year to the U.S., as U.S. sales constitute the majority of their revenue. They come to this country because this is where the market for guns is far and away the greatest. While Americans constitute less than 5% of the world’s population, they own more than 40% of the world’s guns. Though much of the public debate about the misuse of guns is focused on mass shootings, such as the attacks in El Paso and Dayton last weekend, gun-related violence is a daily occurrence throughout the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, there were 39,773 gun-related deaths in the U.S. About one-third were homicides; two-thirds, gun-inflicted suicides. By contrast, in Japan, a country a third the size of the United States, there were only 44 gun-related homicides over eight years.  The most consequential factor behind this disparity is gun ownership, which is 150 times higher in the U.S. than Japan.

Though precise numbers are hard to ascertain, a detailed briefing paper written by Aaron Karp for Small Arms Surveyin 2018 concluded that there are 393 million guns held by civilians in the U.S., more than one for each person living in this country. While the percentage of gun-owning households has declined over time, many who own guns now are stockpiling them. The second-highest figure for private gun ownership comes from India, a country with four times the population of the United States, where there are an estimated 71 million guns in civilian hands. The number of privately held guns in western democracies is dramatically lower than that of the U.S. In Germany, for example, a country of 82 million people, there are 15.8 million guns owned by civilians.

Read the full Forbes article.
Michael Posner is a Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.