You know, the funny/sad thing about events like the Newtown massacre is that gun manufacturers benefit tremendously every time someone opens fire in a crowd. The AP reports that last weekend was probably a record weekend for gun sales:
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in an email that the agency performed 9,772 background checks over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That's 500 more than the second biggest weekend on record - Black Friday and the two days that followed in November.
Wow. Someone uses a gun, and everyone runs out to buy a gun. Apparently having your product used to kill 20 kids is great advertising! But it's kind of weird, if you think about it. If someone had used Tylenol to kill 20 kids on Friday, 10,000 Tennesseans wouldn't rush out to buy Tylenol. But when someone misuses a gun, the gun industry has folks convinced that the best response is to buy more guns.
It's really odd. And kind of gross. And, because gun manufacturers have us convinced that the use of their product for misdeeds proves the necessity of their product for good people, they don't really face market pressures the way other products do. For instance, when someone did use Tylenol to kill a bunch of people back in the ’80s, Tylenol's sales plummeted and they had to redesign their product. The capsules were completely changed, and the containers their products came in. They started sealing the packaging so that you could tell if it had been tampered with. (And though this cost Tylenol a bunch of money, they ended up recouping all of their market share. Consumers were impressed with their actions and rewarded them for it.)
But gun manufacturers never face this kind of backlash from their buyers. They have no impetus to make safer weapons, because consumers don't demand it. Consumers want the same thing the "bad guys" have. Even if that same thing is more dangerous than necessary.
But why should it have to be this way?
I've been thinking about that poor guy in Pennsylvania who accidentally shot and killed his son in a gun store parking lot earlier this month. I can't move a file from my computer's desktop into the trash without being asked if I mean to do that. But gun manufacturers haven't come up with a gun design that prompts you to affirm that you mean to fire it before it goes off?
Or think about the fact that James Bond has a gun that will only fire for him. Why is that fantasy? You can get a safe that opens using your finger print for under $200 at Amazon. Apparently the technology is pretty straightforward and cheap. So, why can't the person who buys the gun be the only person who can fire it? Or, maybe gun manufacturers program the gun so that it will fire a certain amount of ammunition for anyone (so that I can fire your gun in case of an emergency), but that amount is limited — maybe I can only pull the trigger 10 times before you need to reapply your finger print.
Or think bigger. If there's equipment to jam cell phone signals so the phones can't make or receive calls within a certain area, why aren't there gun jammers that stop guns from firing in schools or malls or movie theaters?
I know, the objection to this is going to be that any of these things would require a gun to have a computer. To which I reply, "OK." Cars didn't used to have computers, but now most do. And you can still, if you're into vintage cars, get one that doesn't. But most car owners prefer to have computers in their cars for the benefits — diagnostic and performance. I think that most gun owners would prefer to own guns that don't get used to kill kids — accidentally or intentionally.
So, if someone wants a gun for self-protection, why shouldn't he be able to buy a gun that will only fire when he means for it to fire, and will only fire multiple rounds for him? And why shouldn't we have a way to shut that gun down if it falls into the hands of an evil-doer?
Legislation could encourage that kind of innovation, but I think we all know that's not going to happen. But the thing that could make a difference is if gun consumers start demanding it.
When a tragedy like Newtown happens, it shouldn't make gun manufacturers wealthier. It should make them innovate or lose customers.