Posted - 05/10/2003 : 12:47:40 PM
| Some thoughts from pro 2nd Amendent UCLA law professor, Eugene Volokh
Eugene Volokh, 2:32 PM]
Gun industry: I was talking to a journalist recently about gun laws, and he suggested that many gun control proposals fail because of opposition from the "powerful gun industry."
Whatever one might say about the merits of gun control, the journalist's claim is mistaken. The gun industry, as the New York Times has pointed out (Mar. 18, 2000, and June 15, 1999), is composed of "small, marginally profitable companies," with a combined revenue of $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year. "By contrast, Ford and General Motors have revenues of over $140 billion a year each," and despite that, car design and use is pretty heavily regulated; likewise, alcohol, gambling, and many other industries (many of which are quite heavily regulated) are much more powerful than the gun industry. According to opensecrets.org, in the 2000 federal election cycle (the last one for which they have full information), the total political contributions (counting only those of $200 or more) from industry members, PACs, and employees were under $4.4 million, which made the industry the 64th ranked contributor out of the over 80 that opensecrets.org counted.
The political power of the gun-rights movement stems not from the wealth or power of the industry, but from the number and passion of pro-gun-rights voters. The main force in these campaigns isn't the industry but the NRA, and, in the words of Prof. Robert Spitzer, a strong proponent of gun control,
The key to the NRA's effectiveness lies in its highly motivated mass membership and the organization's ability to bring pressure from that membership to bear at key moments and places. Central to this effectiveness is the fact that gun control opponents are more likely to engage in political action -- letter writing, contributing money, attending meetings, and the like -- than gun control proponents. As Congressional Quarterly observed, the NRA's strength rests with "a body of gun lovers linked by a common activity that continues even when the legislative front is quiet." And the New York Times observed: "The real power of the rifle association stems from the fervor of its members, their apparent devotion to a single, overriding issue, and their determination to judge politicians on a 'for-us-or-against-us basis."
(Robert Spitzer, The Politics of Gun Control 108.)
I'd also say that the gun movement benefits from the support of many people who aren't NRA members but who are strong gun rights enthusiasts. But it's the pro-gun voters and activists, and not the gun industry, that are the main political force in favor of gun rights; and even the NRA itself is powerful only because of those pro-gun voters and activists.
[Eugene Volokh, 2:14 PM]
Assault weapons ban: Jacob Sullum criticizes it, quite soundly, in my view. http://www.reason.com/sullum/050903.shtml