Barack Obama: Firearms Industry’s Best Friend

For several years now, President Obama has been threatening to crack down on gun sales and gun ownership, and the result has been… more guns.  As this article notes, the firearms industry is booming (pardon my phraseology), largely because of the president’s anti-gun rhetoric.  Surely a man as perceptive as President Obama can see that despite his rhetoric, his actions are responsible for putting more guns in the hands of more people.

Meanwhile, what the president is actually proposing would not limit the availability of guns to the people he says shouldn’t have them.  And, it won’t make our communities safer, despite his claims.  He wants to broaden background checks, better track illegal firearms trafficking, and improve reporting on guns stolen in transit from manufacturers and dealers, but what are the problems here?  The shooters at Newtown, Aurora, Roanoke, Charleston, and San Bernardino all used firearms legally bought after background checks.

His statement notes, “The National Firearms Act imposes restrictions on sales of some of the most dangerous weapons, such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. But because of outdated regulations, individuals have been able to avoid the background check requirement by applying to acquire these firearms and other items through trusts, corporations, and other legal entities.”  The reason people buy machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and silencers through corporations is that it is illegal for individuals to buy them.  Individuals have to set up a trust or corporation to own those weapons, according to federal law.  A sensible way to make the change the president suggests is to allow individuals to buy those firearms just like they buy rifles and handguns today, and they would be subject to the same background checks.  I am pretty sure this is not the policy the president has in mind.

But again, is this a problem?  I can’t remember hearing about any cases in my lifetime in which any of these weapons have been used in criminal activity.  The president is going after something that isn’t a problem, and in so doing is fueling the demand for the things he says he wants to control.

I understand the rhetoric about common sense gun laws, but I don’t see any common sense in what the president is proposing.  His proposals won’t do anything to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys, and to the degree that he and his Progressive colleagues would like to limit gun ownership more generally, what he’s actually doing is producing results opposite of what he says he intends.

President Obama must know this.  Am I being cynical to view his statements on gun control as political propaganda designed to build support rather than policy recommendations designed to produce results?

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
Full Biography and Recent Publications
Beacon Posts by Randall Holcombe | Full Biography and Publications
  • Catalyst