With the push for political correctness and central planning growing larger, the argument for less government involvement in firearm regulation comes off as somewhat irrational to most people. Which is understandable given the diminutive attention this side of the argument is provided. But let’s get something straight: the government’s answers to gun violence have not worked. And, why should they? The government has no incentive to come up with new solutions. Even with gun free zones, magazine limitations, and “assault” weapon bans, we still see major crimes resulting from guns winding up in the wrong hands. The answer then could lie in examining private alternatives to solving our nations gun violence.
We always hear this question asked: to what degree should the government intervene in its handling of gun crime? But we never ask whether the encroachment is necessary in the first place.
Plenty of private markets have answered the public’s call for safety with replacements to government intrusion. For example, automotive companies are always trying to gain customers by innovating new ways to lower accident mortality rates. Even betting on their reliability through competitive warranties. Food companies compete for healthy alternatives to processed foods, allowing themselves to be inspected and graded on their ingredient quality to gain consumers.
The takeaway here is that companies don’t do this because they think it’s what the consumer needs, instead they attempt to predict what the consumer wants. Permitting the market to experiment with consumer wants allows for a multitude of solutions to be tried at once, with the most favored being the one that stands out against its competition. It’s how cars came around to include seatbelts, which grew to airbags, and today that has flourished into dozens of standard safety features. The biggest innovator of consumer wants has always been producers chasing profits.
In the firearms market, we can agree that consumers want more safety. It’s the reason gun makers have adamantly worked towards creating a gun that can be taken apart without the pull of a trigger, further cutting down on negligent discharges. Taking the responsibility away from the government and placing it in the laps of gun manufacturers helps both parties. It frees up government resources previously used to enforce regulation to now focus on remaining gun crimes, while opening another avenue for gun makers to compete, allowing them to initiate new safety features in the market, with the incentive to gain profits from successful insight.
This wouldn’t mean the government would have no say in the market, though.
In 2012, the firearms industry brought in a total revenue of almost twelve billion dollars. Forty percent of that revenue came from government contracts through the police and military. Gun makers compete fiercely over these contracts, recognizing how beneficial it is to be appointed as the sidearm of an entire police or military branch. If these contracts were handed out on the merit of companies showing the most progress in regards to gun safety, incentive to innovate safer alternative methods and products would increase greatly. Not only would they gain profits through these contracts, but they stand as a testament to the company’s reputation.
Anyone involved in the gun community knows that a manufacturer’s reputation can mean everything. This is because buying a firearm is not like buying a vacuum. If you purchase a firearm for self-defense that doesn’t function when you need it, you may not be alive afterwards to return it. Thus, manufacturers go to great lengths to preserve and uplift their reputation.
In a competitive market, gun makers risk the loss of not only lucrative government contracts, but also their principled reputation to private sellers if they refused to do background checks, or sold to criminals and mentally-deficient buyers against consumers’ wishes. Allowing this to take place will not always guarantee immediate results. Yet, when it comes to delivering what consumers want, history shows us that private innovation has and will be the more efficient means to achieve it.
That is because government does not gain from improved safety or innovation. Instead, it profits off its citations and the costs associated with its unmitigated bans. What we are left with is a system with no accountability and constant denial of its stifling effects. Competition, on the other hand, has proven itself as an unavoidable characteristic of free enterprise. Helping consumers in every market achieve their desired ends. Yet, regulators seem to be unequivocally terrified of allowing it to work. It’s as if they refuse to skydive, not because of the proof that gravity will cause them to fall, but rather for fear they may float away into outer space in its absence. We owe it to the safety of our communities to recognize this fault, and assess whether it’s time for an uncommon remedy.
Thomas J. Eckert
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