A Bid to Increase Gun Exports, Stalled After Sandy Hook, Moves Ahead

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When cigarette, Coca Cola or whiskey sales fall in the United States, manufacturers look to recoup their losses by promoting sales of their lethal but legal products overseas, especially to the growing middle classes in middle income nations like China, Brazil, Mexico and India.  Now the Trump administration wants to streamline the process for exporting American firearms, reports the New York Times,  a change sought for years by domestic gun companies as a way to increase sales of both military weapons and small arms.

“A proposed rule published in the Federal Register would transfer jurisdiction of consumer gun exports from the State Department, where the licensing process is expensive and extensive, to the Commerce Department, which has a simpler application process.

Gun industry groups said that the shift, which was first conceived during the Obama administration but halted after the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, would pare down a bureaucratic process that currently discourages American firearms companies from sending their products abroad.

Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation called the proposal “a significant positive development for the industry that will allow members to reduce costs and compete in the global marketplace more effectively, all while not in any way hindering national security.”

But critics of the proposal worry that American guns, including AR-15s and similar semiautomatic rifles frequently used in mass shootings, could more easily find their way into the hands of foreign criminals. Among the reasons: a change in the disclosure rules for certain sales. The State Department is required by the Arms Export Control Act to submit any commercial arms sale worth $1 million or more to congressional review. The Commerce Department has no equivalent mandate.”

Firearm sales in the United States have struggled since President Trump, a vocal supporter of the gun industry, was elected. Fears of gun control, which helped propel demand to record highs during the Obama administration, have waned during Mr. Trump’s tenure.

Representative Elizabeth Esty, whose Connecticut district includes Newtown, said on Wednesday that she would try to “stop this if I can.” “This is a national security and diplomacy question, but moving it to Commerce makes it an economic promotion of an industry,” she said. “It’s putting profits ahead of people.”

U.S. Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas

In every measurable way, the U.S is head honcho of the global violence industry.

I live next door to the world’s biggest gun manufacturer, writes Tamara Pearson for Common Dreams. Here in Mexico, the murder rates are close to civil war levels. They broke records last year, for a total of 41,217 homicides, with 25,339 first degree murders over the course of the year. And those are the official figures – which if anything, tend to under report reality.

President Trump has labeled Mexican migrants heading to the U.S. as “criminals” but has ironically overlooked the fact 70% of the guns coming into Mexico originate in the U.S. With the recent shooting in the YouTube headquarters, the inspiring movements of young people demanding gun control, and Black Lives Matter protesting police impunity – the issue of systemic, deathly violence in the U.S. is receiving important attention. But the impact of of that violence outside U.S. borders is largely going under the radar.

Pension Funds Under Pressure to Sell Off Investments in Gun-Makers

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Since the mass killing at a Parkland, Fla., high school earlier this month, many teachers have called on their state pension funds to sell their stakes in gun-makers, reports National Public Radio.  Private investment firms including BlackRock and Blackstone are reviewing their firearms investments in response to clients’ demands. “I’m currently urging my colleagues to divest in retail and wholesale suppliers of weapons that are banned for possession or sale in the state of California,” says State Treasurer John Chiang, who sits on the boards of his state’s two largest pension funds — CalPERS for public employees and CalSTRS for teachers.  “We can make a clear and powerful signal that the inaction by Congress is heartless, it’s intolerable, and there are people who want to make sure that kids aren’t losing their lives,” Chiang says.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Will Stop Selling Assault-Style Rifles, Set Under-21 Ban for Other Guns

The Washington Post reports that Dick’s Sporting Goods will no longer sell assault-style firearms, will ban high-capacity magazines and will not sell any guns to people younger than 21, the company announced Wednesday, a significant move for the retail giant in the midst of renewed calls for national gun reform.  Chief executive Edward W. Stack made the announcement during an appearance on “Good Morning America”, as well as through a company statement that said “thoughts and prayers are not enough” in the wake of America’s latest mass shooting. Two weeks ago, a gunman killed 17 people, most of them teenagers, in Parkland, Fla., with an AR-15 that was legally purchased. The alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, bought a shotgun from a Dick’s store in November, Stack said during the television interview.

Bank of America takes aim at gun-making clients

Bank of America Corp became the latest financial heavyweight to take aim at gunmakers, saying it would ask clients who make assault rifles how they can help end mass shootings like last week’s massacre at a Florida high school, writes Reuters.  Bank of America, the second-biggest U.S. bank by assets, said its request to makers of the military-style weapons was in line with those taken by other financial industry companies to help prevent deadly gun rampages.  “An immediate step we’re taking is to engage the limited number of clients we have that manufacture assault weapons for non-military use to understand what they can contribute to this shared responsibility,” the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank said in a statement.

The NRA is smaller than you’d think – so why does it wield such influence?

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Why is the National Rifle Association so powerful?  asks The Guardian in an in-depth analysis of the political role of the NRA in resisting efforts to reduce gun violence.  Here’s a clue: it’s not (just) about the money.  The vast majority of Americans support gun control, and yet Congress has failed to toughen laws even in the wake of a series of mass shootings. With the NRA pouring money into political races at record levels it is an easy argument to make that the gun lobby has bought Washington – but that fails to paint a full picture… “The NRA has money that it uses to help its favored candidates get elected. But the real source of its power, I believe, comes from voters,” said Adam Winkler, professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.  By choosing its battles wisely, the NRA has shown an ability to swing primary elections in favor of pro-gun candidates, Winkler said. “That’s the real source of their strength,” he said. That and its use of a relatively small number of highly motivated people to push an agenda that appears out of step with the general population, which, according to recent polling, is in favor of stricter gun laws.

Broadening the Perspective on Gun Violence: An Examination of the Firearms Industry, 1990-2015

Firearm violence injures or kills 100,000 Americans each year. Research on firearm violence tends to focus on two elements-the host (i.e., victims of firearm violence) and the environment (i.e., gun policies)-but little attention has been paid to the agent (the gun and ammunition) or the vector (firearm manufacturers, dealers, and the industry lobby). Using Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives data, trends in firearm manufacturing were investigated from 1990 to 2015. Overall domestic firearms production decreased slightly from 1996 through 2004, and then steadily increased from 1.7% in 2005 to 13.8% in 2013, when >10 million firearms were produced for the domestic market. The increase in total firearm production was driven by the increased production of pistols and rifles. Within the pistol category, increased production was attributable to an increase in higher caliber weapons. Similar trends were observed in gun purchases and recovered and traced crime guns. Trends in firearm manufacturing reveal a shift toward more-lethal weapons, and this trend is also observed in gun purchases and crime gun traces. This may reflect a societal shift in cultural practices and norms related to guns and could inform strategies to reduce firearm violence.

Citation: Smith VM, Siegel M, Xuan Z, Ross CS, Galea S, Kalesan B, Fleegler E, Goss KA. Broadening the Perspective on Gun Violence: An Examination of the Firearms Industry, 1990-2015. Am J Prev Med. 2017. pii: S0749-3797(17)30258-1.

Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States

A study in Pediatrics examines fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries among children aged 0 to 17 in the United States, including intent, demographic characteristics, trends, state-level patterns, and circumstances. Nearly 1300 children die and 5790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. Boys, older children, and minorities are disproportionately affected. Although unintentional firearm deaths among children declined from 2002 to 2014 and firearm homicides declined from 2007 to 2014, firearm suicides decreased between 2002 and 2007 and then showed a significant upward trend from 2007 to 2014. Rates of firearm homicide among children are higher in many Southern states and parts of the Midwest relative to other parts of the country. Firearm homicides of younger children often occurred in multivictim events and involved intimate partner or family conflict; older children more often died in the context of crime and violence. Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children. Understanding their nature and impact is a first step toward prevention.

Citation: Fowler KA, Dahlberg LL, Haileyesus T, et al.Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States. Pediatrics. 2017;140(1): e20163486

He’s a danger to the gun industry. Here’s why.

Gary Wintemute doesn’t look like a slayer of gunslingers, writes the Sacramento Bee in a profile of one of the nation’s leading researchers on the gun industry. He’s a bespectacled professor of 65, and speaks in the measured tones of the scientist he is. But for the gun industry, he may be the most dangerous scientist in America, more so starting on July 1.  That’s when the University of California will release the first of $5 million to fund the UC Davis Firearms Violence Research Center, located in an unmarked building on Stockton Avenue, across from the UC Davis Medical Center.

Traders, guns, and money: The effects of mass shootings on stock prices of firearm manufacturers in the U.S.

A new study in PLOS ONE  investigates how mass shootings influence the stock price of firearms manufacturers. While it is well known that mass shootings lead to increased firearms sales, the response from financial markets is unclear. On one hand, given the observed short-term increase in demand, firearm stock prices may rise due to the unexpected financial windfall for the firm. On the other, mass shootings may result in calls for regulation of the industry, leading to divestment of firearms stocks in spite of short-term demand. The study examines this tension using a market movement event study in the wake of 93 mass shootings in the U.S. between 2009 and 2013. Findings show that stock prices of firearm manufacturers decline after shootings; each event reducing prices between 22.4 and 49.5 basis points, per day. These losses are exacerbated by the presence of a handgun and the number of victims killed, but not affected by the presence of children or location of the event. Finally, the study finds that these effects are most prevalent in the period 2009–2010 but disappear in later events, indicating that markets appear to have accepted mass shootings as the “new normal.”