Despite the fact that the U.S. economy is going down the drain, there is still one enterprise that seems to be doing quite well: guns. The Washington Post, in a front page story, [Oct. 27, 2008] notes that the purchase of guns and ammunition have risen ten percent this year. Specifically, the economy is draining thousands of dollars from every American household and is increasing the number of jobless persons. These unemployed and near-penniless individuals, reasons the newspaper, can easily switch to a life of crime. In addition, as things get worse, civil disorder can erupt in cities and towns nationwide.

Today’s fiscal calamity is the worst the nation has experienced since the depression of the 1930s. Economist John Williams is on record as saying inflation will rise 20% over the next twelve months, making the average American less trusting of their government. If the folks in Washington can’t control the recession, how can they protect its citizens against civil disorder? One of Great Britain’s most respected newspapers, The Guardian, underscored America’s gathering storm by noting the increase in homeless pets, abandoned by families forced out of their homes.

There is yet another impulse driving Americans to purchase, keep, and bear arms. The recent Supreme Court decision involving interpretation of the Second Amendment was a lesson in how things can change. If the Court’s action made gun ownership less restrictive, another ruling in the near future could have just the opposite effect. If Barack Obama ends up occupying the White House, observers believe he will enact new gun controls, backed by a Democratic majority. It is also speculated that during his term or terms of office, Obama will have an opportunity to nominate at least two new liberal Supreme Court justices.

I did some research and went to visit Reviewster, and according to my research, the general counsel of Sturm, Ruger & Company, one of the largest gun manufacturers, states that the firearms industry is one of the last to be affected by a recession. Interviewed by The New York Times, Stephen Sanetti said “firearms are the last discretionary purchase people give up.” The motivation to acquire and keep firearms is there for two essential reasons: protection against the unrest of hard times; and the concern that an Obama presidency will mean radical measures banning or restricting the sale and ownership of guns.

Media coverage of the recession has forced many Americans into a near-panic. The doom and gloom school of journalism is being blamed by some for worsening the recession and prolonging it. In reporting a serious problem, the media can actually make it worse. The media guru of the 1950s, Marshall McLuhan (“The Media is the Message”), once stated that if enough journalists reported repeatedly that a catastrophic storm was forming, they could actually make it happen.

The public’s fear of pending restrictions on the purchase or ownership of firearms is not without precedent. The Washington Post cites a rush to buy guns in the mid-1990s when President Clinton sought a ban on semiautomatic rifles. The recent Second Amendment ruling by the Supreme Court was brought about in part by the District of Columbia’s harsh gun laws and a proposal that if those laws are liberalized by the Court’s decree, semi-automatic handguns would still be banned. This means that only revolvers, most with a maximum of five or six shots and a cumbersome reload procedure, would be legal.

Not only are firearms sales up at many gun stores, applications for a permit to carry a concealed weapon are also burgeoning. The number of women seeking such permits is also on the rise and some gun manufacturers are marketing to women with such attractions as a revolver with pink handgrips.

While fears of home invasions and increased gang and drug violence that an unstable economy triggers, there is the reverse “trickle down” theory that things get worse at the bottom rungs of society first. It is there that robberies, burglaries, carjacking and other crimes-for-profit are likely to increase. Add to the disorder a situation in which a former stay at home mom now has to work, leaving the premises unoccupied and ripe for break-ins. The foreboding cycle evolves when victims of home invasions rush to the gun shop for a defensive weapon.

With Obama the predicted next occupant of the White House, it remains to be seen how restrictive he and his administration will be regarding gun rights. Meanwhile, the rush to buy additional guns or that first gun continues. The Post article concludes with the citing of law enforcement and industry data that “guns are indeed selling well this year.” Background checks qualifying a person to own a gun have increased from 7.7 million to 8.4 million in the first nine months of this year.

Chase Hamil

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