"Guns are big business"? (countering anti-gun conspiracy arguments)


October 8, 2005, 12:13 PM
I've noted that a lot of anti-gunners believe that the NRA is driven by the all-powerful Gun Industry, which manipulates law and public fear of minorities to sell more death-dealing products. Thus, the NRA isn't interested in civil rights, it's just interested in moving more product for its financiers. At least, according to the "Guns Are Big Business" post on Democratic Underground.

I'm pretty sure this is incorrect.

Doesn't the NRA derive most of it's funds from, say, members? Are massive wads of cash regularly ponied up by Ruger to help the NRA pass relaxed gun laws in Florida?

Here's the main reason I don't buy that argument (ever so popular on DU): the amount of money in the gun industry must be miniscule compared to other American industries.

Sure, a few folks out there own 100 or more firearms. But your average person owns one or a couple, and they last for century if you take good care of them. Heck, if you spend $500/yr on guns, you'd have a sizeable collection by middle age. Compare this to the tons of families who spend $50/wk at McDonalds, or $19,000 every five years on a new car, or put $30 in the gas tank every week of their lives.

These antis would have us believe that the NRA has somewhow become "the most feared lobby in Congress" due to its interests in the financial success of an industry which is probably pulls in less cash than the Fashion industry (which is well-known for ending the political careers of the anti-clothers).

Can anyone direct me to any good source of statistics which we could use to prove how financially miniscule the U.S. firearms industry is compared to the dozens of industries that Americans pay into every single day of their lives?

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October 8, 2005, 12:46 PM
I know when Smith and Wesson made a big deal about the M9 trials congress investigated whether or not it was made an impact on our economy if it was an american company or not, their conclusion: NO, very small part of the economy.

Liberals are probaby influenced by Marxist ideology which pins capitalist excess for all of societies problems. Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Warmonger Inc etc.

October 8, 2005, 01:03 PM
Look, the thing to understand is that the forces of organized gun bigotry simply do not leash themselves to reality.

They'll make up whatever sounds good and serves their agenda.

It goes way beyond mere spinning of facts to suit their ends, it extends all the way to blatant, going to hell, pants on fire, baby jesus weeping lies.

They've been caught at it so many times, that NOTHING they say is credible to anyone who has been paying attention, and the only reason to keep analysing the poop coming out their chutes is to counter the dynamic that a big lie, oft repeated, becomes accepted as truth.


October 8, 2005, 01:19 PM
I wouldn't even go so far as to call the NRA "the most feared lobbying group in Washington." That title would have to go to the AARP. But scaring people with the image of a few million oldsters armed with nothing but the Congresscritters phone numbers and lots of free time isn't as easy.

The NRA doesn't represent the gun industry-there's another group (the Shooting Sports Foundation, IIRC) that does that. The NRA is so scary precisely because it's a membership-based organization that represents a few million members, probably second only the the aforementioned AARP in size.

October 8, 2005, 01:38 PM
And Geek puts one right through the X-Ring.

October 8, 2005, 01:39 PM
5 million or so voters can = election, or not

1% of 80,000,000 armed citizens could = The largest insurgency in the history of the world.

Congress is correct to fear armed citizens, this is by design.

The NRA, GOA, JPFO, 2AS, etc is the embodiment of the socialist's/communist's worst nightmare... Independent, well prepared, intelligent, self reliant individuals, capable of looking out for themselves.
Therefore, Anti-Freedom, and power hungry people will always try to paint them as Scary, extremest, hate mongers etc.
It comes with the territory.

October 8, 2005, 01:40 PM
AARP has some problems - and you thought the NRA had problems - including all those young conservatives who signed up when they turned 50. I suppose there are a significant number of Americans who retired at 50...nah. AARP just wants to sell them insurance and stuff.

From: www.suddenlysenior.com/aarpgrowballs.html

"If Only Our AARP Acted More Like the NRA

According to BusinessWeek (3/14/2005) $300 million of that $770 million income comes from the sale of insurance and other financial services to members. (AARP advertises health insurance on Suddenly Senior's Web site.) That's the greed part.

How can we expect AARP to vigorously represent us in issues like prescription drug coverage with such a glaring conflict of interest? Even the $10 million of our membership dollars it spends to convince us to use generic drugs will no doubt have a positive impact on their insurance bottom line.

The fear part? Since AARP lowered the age of membership to 50, it has been attracting members that are more conservative. AARP fears antagonizing the poor things.

Can you imagine the NRA worrying about antagonizing anyone?

If only AARP would represent seniors as well as the NRA represents gun owners. Instead, we get discounted motel rooms."

October 8, 2005, 02:59 PM
According to Dave Kopel and the Wall Street Journal (July 27, 2005), the firearms industry, by market cap, is collectively smaller than any Fortune 500 company and supports no more than 20,000 jobs. There are also only two publicly traded firearms companies: Smith & Wesson and Ruger.

It is common practice to portray your enemy as a bememoth and draw some parallel to a righteous David against an evil Goliath. It allows the anti-gunners to play off of the left's wild fears of corporations (well, not always unjustified) and private industry in general. Of course, if they're looking for big business, they picked the wrong industry, but if it weren't for lies, they would have no case.

October 8, 2005, 03:13 PM
Absolutely. The gun industry in the US is small and poor. It employs fewer people than your average mall chain store and makes less money as well. The costs of building quality small arms are very high and profit margins very narrow. The real money is in government contracts, but European concerns such as FN and Beretta hold most of these.

The NRA is nowhere near the top of heap as far as donations to politicians. Drug companies, the insurance industry, and scores of other businesses give much more. The NRA's political power comes from VOTES.

October 8, 2005, 03:30 PM
Telperion makes a great point, and I managed to track down a lot of sources (both partisan and neutral) making that exact same point.

Unfortunately, the second that we use that argument, some statist is going to get on Google and find the NSSF's statement that:

Surveys by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and others indicate that the hunting and shooting sports generate some $30 billion in economic impact annually – supporting more than 986,000 jobs.

The some $30 billion in economic activity generated by the hunting and shooting sports industries exceeds the annual sales of companies such as Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, McDonald’s, Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Caterpillar Tractor, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Hewlitt Packard, RJR Nabisco and scores of other highly recognizable "Fortune 500" companies.

(cited numerous places, including http://www.remington.com/aboutus/nssfbooklet.htm)

Oh my gosh! Guns are bigger business than beer and junkfood combined! No wonder the NRA controls the government!

My counter-argument would be that the NSSF is completely separate from the NRA and pursues separate goals. I doubt the NSSF had much to do with Florida's No Retreat law, the spread of CCW, the defeat of the AWB, etc.

But still, it's frustrating to see how there are completely dissimilar ways to present the same issue, even when both are presented by pro-gunners.


October 8, 2005, 04:56 PM
Okay, but economic activity means what, revenue, sales? There's a big difference between revenue and earnings, and neither tells you what's on a company's balance sheet.

The NSSF's figure includes industries that are peripheral to firearms manufacture -- when they say "hunting and shooting sports" they are including everyone from hunting apparel manufacturers, bow and airgun manufactuers, and range owners who collect range fees. The NSSF estimated the revenue of firearms and ammo manufactuers based off excise tax receipts and came up with $1.9 billion for 2003. That's about equal to what McDonalds pulled in for 2004, and we're comparing an entire industry to a single company.

Standing Wolf
October 8, 2005, 05:48 PM
It goes way beyond mere spinning of facts to suit their ends, it extends all the way to blatant, going to hell, pants on fire, baby jesus weeping lies.

Well said!

The bigger the lie and more often it's repeated, the greater the odds it will be mistaken for the truth.

October 8, 2005, 06:01 PM
Surveys by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and others indicate that the hunting and shooting sports generate some $30 billion in economic impact annually – supporting more than 986,000 jobs.

Not very much of that goes to the Gun industry. It goes to license fees, gasoline, camping equipment, boots, gear, cabin rentals, leases, food, beer and restaurant/bar tabs during hunting season.

A $500 30-06 is a very small percentage of the cost of the years of hunting trips it goes on.

October 8, 2005, 10:21 PM
It is all politics. The media always writes about the GUN LOBBY. It does play into leftist anti-corporation, anti-capitalism, anti-hunting-pro-animal rights ideology and for that matter the environmentalists,anti-military , so called human rights groups. The Media almost NEVER writes about the Defenders of the Second amendment, the pro-civil right group defending the second amendment or why the ACLU does not do so. IT IS POLITICS. IF you say corporation to a certain part of the Democrat party base it is defacto evil and must be defeated.

October 9, 2005, 09:08 PM
Anybody remember the movie "Runaway Jury"? I had to walk out of the room after the scene at the hunting cabin with the "industry leaders" promising millions of dollars to fight the legal battles. My friends thought I was crazy, until I patiently explained that Ruger is one of the largest firearms companies in the US (THE largest?) and has an operating profit only in the 100s of thousands at best. They believed me when I showed them the annual reports in the Big Book of Ruger.

It's just lies. And after working in a sporting goods shop, I can concur that the bulk of the millions of dollars spent on the hunting, fishing, shooting, etc is on clothing, boots, licenses, fishing equipment, tree stands, etc. People very, very rarely buy firearms in all honesty, at least in my experience.

October 9, 2005, 09:59 PM
I did some digging a couple of years ago to counter this very argument.

The information I got from one of the firearms industry magazines (not gun rags, but an industry magazine) was that in 2001 the entire US Firearms industry was about a $2 Billion industry ... that same year McDonald's was at about $12 Billion.

October 9, 2005, 10:13 PM
the revenue of firearms and ammo manufactuers based off excise tax receipts and came up with $1.9 billion for 2003. That's about equal to what McDonalds pulled in for 2004,

Actually, no. Revenue for MickeyD's for 2004 was $19 billion...10X of the entire firearms industry. One company. For reference of other Chicago-based companies: Motorola is over $30 billion sales for a year. Even "tiny" USG (the Sheetrock people) is something like $3 billion in sales each year.

I'll do a little Google-ing here.

Ruger in 2002 was $161 million in sales. S&W is around $125 million. Remington in 2004 was $363 million.

For reference, I run a product group at a $30+ billion dollar corporation, in a $11 billion dollar division. We're one of the "tiny" product groups (about 40 little products) and our sales this year of my products alone will be about $450 million...I'm larger than almost any of the "big bad gun industry".

Actually, just found this...a financial analysis of the firearms industry published in the year 2000 http://www.njit.edu/v2/pwt/reports/VolumeI/19AppE-FinancialAnalysis.htm It's a little dated but very interesting none the less. Here's a telling exerpt from the report

Profitability: Profitability of individual firms varies. Because the industry consists of privately held firms, it is difficult to get financial information about them. Based on the available data, I have concluded that the profitability of these firms is rather modest. Manufacturing of firearms is not an attractive industry.

Stock performance: The publicly held companies, Olin, Tomkins and Sturm and Ruger, have performed rather poorly in the stock market. Their stocks have consistently declined over several years.

Liquidity of the companies: The financial liquidity varies with individual firms. In general the firms are leveraged highly and their liquidity position is not high.

Technology development: This industry is not technologically sophisticated. It does negligible to none research and development. Growth of patents has been very poor. Most importantly, individual hobbyists are inventors of new patents. This raises serious problems of implementing any technology that may be embedded in these patents. Base on a large body knowledge on technology management, we know that one needs a coordinated effort among different functional units for successful commercialization of new technology.

Investment capital: There is no new entry into this industry. On the contrary, existing company such as Lorcin has exited recently. The capital market is skeptical about the economic potential of this industry as evidenced by the low price earning ratios of the three public held companies.

I do not expect that any major technological change is likely to be developed by the industry. Not only the industry lacks resources, it does not have the scientific and technical tradition and capability to initiate technological changes.

Here's another research brief that supports the claim of the entire industry being no bigger than about $2B http://www.firstresearch.com/Industry-Research/Gun-Manufacturing.html

October 10, 2005, 02:03 PM
Kris, you ruthless jerk. Allowing some pitiless facts trample a good hysteria to death.

October 10, 2005, 02:42 PM
Kris, you're right, I misread McDonald's balance sheet :o

That report's findings are even more pessimistic than I would have ventured. The part about negligible R&D spending and almost no patent growth really got to me. Innovation in the biz is at a standstill and the people who are doing R&D and snatching government contracts are foreign firms. :(

Carl N. Brown
October 10, 2005, 03:37 PM
Law professor Donald B. Kates and sociologist professor
James D. Wright seperately and in different forums made
the point years ago that the NRA wins most of its legal
battles simply by being right most of the time and doing
its homework: checking up on facts and laws.

Brady Campaign/Handgun Control Inc. recently named five
sheriffs as supporting their side during testimony before
Congress; when contacted, the sheriffs said they did
NOT agree with the BC/HCI position and had not given
them permission to use their names. Of course, it was
the Gun Lobby Conspiracy at work! Nyah-ha-ha-ha.

The NRA as gun industry lobby with magical power over
Congress is a myth that has been around since gun
control advocates Carl Bakal and Thomas J. Dodd in
the 1960s and is like the Roswell conspiracy: it won't be
dispelled by mere fact.

October 10, 2005, 06:38 PM
I could be mistaken, but I believe that the publicly held S&W and Ruger sales figures include things other than firearms proper:

Parts for golf clubs, branded knives, handcuffs, training, clothing, billiard cues, hammer heads, etc. etc.

Comparing the NSSF figures to gun sales would be, I guess, only marginally more valid than comparing Florida tourism figures to sunscreen sales.

I've been wanting to ruin an anti's day by pointing out that their Callaway Big Bertha money went, in part, to Ruger's Twin Pines facility.

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