No, Gun Violence is Not the Fault of Gun Manufacturers

Posted on October 12, 2015


Here we go again: some loser commits a high-profile crime that goes viral in the media, and then we have the predictable calls for gun control… some of it sensible, some, well… less so. My current peeve is with those who want to blame gun manufacturers for the actions of criminals who use guns in their crimes. Maybe you think like Hillary Clinton on this issue, or like E.J. Dionne Jr. Or like some of the Sandy Hook families, who are suing a gun manufacturer and a gun seller. Or even like the father of the most recent mass-murdering gunman to hit the news, who blames his son’s crime on… wait for it… the gun manufacturers. “That’s what guns are, the killers,” he says, as if his son had little say in the matter.

Sorry, but gun manufacturers are not the problem. They have done nothing illegal; all they do is make a legal product for law-abiding citizens in a legal market. Gun sellers can get themselves into trouble by selling illegally, but in the majority of these high-profile cases, the gunman in question has obtained the weapons legally, or else someone in his household has obtained them legally. Sandy Hook? Legally purchased. Virginia Tech? Legally purchased. The Aurora theater shooting? Legally purchased. Tucson? Legally purchased. The recent Oregon shooting? Legally purchased.

I am seeing a pattern here, and it has nothing to do with the gun manufacturers. Since when did it become acceptable to pillory manufacturers and merchants who are engaged in a legal business, and who abide by all legal constraints on that business, just because someone who bought one of their products, perhaps even used, perhaps years after its manufacture… wigged out and used that product in a crime?

Let’s look at other products: how about your car? We strictly control training and licensing for drivers; we register our cars, we pay taxes on our cars, we have driver’s insurance. We have many cases of unlicensed drivers, of reckless and careless drivers, and even intentional vehicular homicide.  Despite many improvements in safety and intense government regulation, the US still has well over 30,000 car-related deaths annually. That’s roughly three times higher than all combined gun homicides annually.

And yet, I don’t hear a whole lot of outraged citizens blaming all these deaths on the cars, or the manufacturers.

How about knives? Freely available, no license needed, no age restrictions; hell, even an ex-con can own a knife! And yet, according to FBI statistics, knives consistently come in as America’s #2 murder weapon right behind guns overall, year after year (knives actually kill roughly three times as many people as rifles and shotguns do). This is not insignificant! In countries with strict gun control, knives are the weapon of choice. Do we think knives can’t be used in mass killing sprees? Why, yes they can: check out the mass murders of schoolchildren in Japan in 2001, or in Thailand just last month. The deadliest mass murder in Calgary, Canada was a knife attack at a party in 2014. A knife attack on a coal mine by separatists in China resulted in dozens of deaths, including armed police officers. As for those who point to Australia’s practically non-existent gun violence after confiscating most of the citizens’ weapons, there is this: a mass murder just last year with eight children stabbed to death.

But no one blames the knives, or the knife makers, or the knife sellers.

No, when someone kills someone else using a car or a knife, we all recognize that the problem lies with the criminal, not the instrument he used, and even less with the manufacturer of that instrument.

In the end, guns are just hunks of metal with a couple of springs here and there. You can load a gun, chamber a round, and take the safety off and leave it sitting on your shelf. It is quite safe. It will simply sit there*. It won’t do anything at all, except maybe rust, for years and years on end. Just like a knife, just like a car – it’s just an object.

The only time it will ever become dangerous is when someone picks it up and pulls the trigger. What happens next is a matter for the law to decide: whether that comes to murder, negligence, endangerment, legitimate self-defense, or legal recreation.

Whatever it is, it’s still not the manufacturer’s problem.

* Guns do not “just go off.” When they “go off,” someone is handling them… probably with their finger on the trigger… or, they have some mechanical defect and discharge when they are dropped or fall over or are otherwise roughly handled. But I know of zero cases of a loaded gun spontaneously discharging while sitting quietly on a shelf or in a drawer.