The Sacramento Bee has turned their editorial page over to citizen control cultist Josh Sugarmann, the ineffectual head of the Violence Policy Center, for a truly amusing rant entitled Viewpoints: NRA, gun makers promote ever more lethal weapons.
Like virtually everything the VPC produces, the claims made are laughably false, and amusingly easy to debunk.
In 1980, semi-automatic pistols accounted for only 32 percent of the handguns produced in America. By 1991, this proportion had jumped to 74 percent.
During this same period, the firearms industry began marketing semi-automatic assault weapons to the general public – civilian versions of the fully automatic machine guns used by armies around the world.
Let’s give Sugarmann credit where credit is due. He did create the term “assault weapon” out of thin air in the mid-1980s in an attempt to confuse the general public, and convince them that the semi-automatic firearms that are the most common firearms sold in the United States are machine guns.
His claim that firearms companies began marketing semi-automatic rifles and pistols to the general public in the 1980s, however, are completely false.
Military and police sales have always been a small fraction of the overall firearms market. Presently, the U.S. Military is composed of roughly 2 million souls (give or take), and police agencies account for a market of 800,000 when local, state, and federal agencies are combined. The civilian active market for firearms in the United States at this time is roughly 80-100 million people. While the exact percentage of firearms ownership have fluctuated over the years, the civilian market has always been the primary focus of most gun companies.
Semi-automatic and even automatic firearms have been marketed to the public since the late 1800s when they were available for mass production, and this has never changed.
Here are just a few representative ads from the 1900s-early 1930s, selling semi-automatics for personal defense and hunting, as well as a fully automatic Thompson submachine gun for personal defense.
Semi-automatic firearms really took off in the 1950s and 1960s, where military surplus semi-automatics used by our military and foreign forces flooded the civilian market.
A light rifle joined that market in 1963, 51 years ago, as the AR-15 became available for public sale and was marketed that way from the very beginning.
Sugarmann’s rant is just the latest in a long line of fact-free attempts to claim that the firearms industry and the National Rifle Association are part of some recent conspiracy, and to blame for gun crime… both claims that are laughably, objectively, and demonstrably false.
The reality is that firearms-related violence and firearms-related accidents have been on a steady decline for decades, even as firearms ownership has skyrocketed in recent years and concealed carry laws have spread to all 50 states as they have continually expanded over the past 30 years.
The declining number of deaths and injuries that still remain from firearms are typically suicides (which are difficult to stop, regardless of the tool or mechanism used), criminal-on-criminal activity primarily tied to poverty and the drug trade (which has worsened thanks to Johnson’s “Great Society”), domestic violence, and the violently mentally ill spree and mass killers seemingly emboldened by wall-to-wall mainstream media coverage and the resulting infamy.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that Sugarmann’s group is kept afloat by generous donations from radical left-wing political foundations that benefit from poverty and desperation, who need someone to deflect a willing left-leaning media away from the failed welfare state political policies that keep violence of all kinds from declining further.