Guns and Economics

Dear Senator Elizabeth Warren,

As one of your constituents, I want to publicly and directly call for your help.  Not just as a passionate reformer and advocate but as someone who intimately understands the US Economy and the financial motivation that sits behind most of the deep and polarizing political entrenchment in Washington at this moment.  You have the unique power to galvanize a movement that is long overdue.  We should be able to end gun violence in the United States. Images of children being gunned down should have been enough of a shock to make us never want to see the likes of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, PULSE, Las Vegas, etc. again. For a nation where over three quarters of the population identifies as “religious” , it would seem to be a no brainer. But you and I both understand that the United States will not act to end gun violence based on a purely ethical appeal. The United States government will not act to end gun violence based on a religious position. The United States government will not act to end gun violence based on health statistics or the embarrassment of comparison with other developed nations. The United States government will not act to end gun violence…unless it hurts financially.

The gun industry is worth over $51B to the US Economy and creates over 300,000 jobs.[1] With that kind of economic pull, there is little incentive for a government whose policies are dominated by their financial potential; for instance our investment in a for-profit heatlhcare system. To put that $51B in a different light, consider that the US stake in the Pharmaceutical industry, one of the most powerful markets in the entire world is worth an estimated $446B[2] . Even doing a highly oversimplified math equation puts the “value” of the domestic gun industry at 11% of the United States GLOBAL share of the pharmaceutical industry. That is not insignificant. Particularly when considering that guns are designed to do only one thing (destroy) and pharmaceuticals are designed to do countless things (primarily heal, help, prevent, etc.).  Of course, as I pointed out, this is an oversimplification, particularly when you consider that the value of the pharma industry includes any number of drugs that gain their value due to illicit use and trade that is backed up by guns…but I digress.

If those of us who want to see substantial change in the gun laws in the United States wish to do this intelligently, we must follow the money. The 11 nations with the highest investment in the United States (see below [3]) all have negligible gun deaths compared with the United States. Our largest investor by far (the United Kingdom with $598B [4]) only has .06 homicides per 100k people compared with the United States at 3.54. The loss of even a portion of the UK investment (say the equivalent of the value of the gun industry $51B) would have a powerful effect on the US economy. Now imagine if each of those top investment nations were to draw back their investment by that same amount; such an action might convince our dysfunctional and greed driven system to do something.  And if we can’t convince other nations to buy in, why not implore our wealthiest corporations to take a financial stand.  Corporate and banking industires have the power to grind the United States to an absolute standstill (think Jeff Bezos).  It feels like its time for this kind of drastic action.

What would compel these nations and corporations to act? Oddly enough, I believe that the ethical appeal that is such a non starter in the land of “thoughts and prayers” is exactly the tactic. These same nations and some of our most powerful corporations have some of the most equally powerful human and civil rights laws and policies on the books. They are nations with national healthcare systems and social insurance and care for the elderly and standardized (at a high standard) education. These are industries that are holding themselves to account for the abuses and underpayment of women.  They are also entities that have all received the recent shift away from collaboration by the Trump administration. Yes, they need the US economy, but as the US under Trump isolates itself and retreats more and more to its gilded Fifth Avenue tower, the US will need these economically powerful forces even more. The international community should call for sanctions against the United States based on human rights abuses…the continued exposure of our children and vulnerable populations to gun violence.

Industrial and international partners must put their money where their mouths should be and make a difference in this ongoing and needless tragedy. We have tried to fight gun violence as a health issue, as a moral issue, as a religious issue, even as a gendered issue but we have not yet tried to fight it as an issue of economics and I believe this is the one place where we can actually win.  It is simple supply and demand.  No other nation, regardless of where they sit on the development scale wants the US to start exporting its most prolific product: senseless unchecked death.

Country – US Investment (in Billions)

United Kingdom – $598.3
Canada – $453.6
Japan – $424.3
Germany – $372.8
Ireland – $279.6
France – $267.6
Switzerland – $196.6
Netherlands – $191.9
Singapore – $73.7
Spain – $67.2
China – $58.2

Corporate Market Value (as of Feb. 6, 2018)

Amazon – $685 B
Microsoft – $684 B
Apple – $815 B

[1]- https://www.nssf.org/government-relations/impact/
[2] – https://www.statista.com/topics/1719/pharmaceutical-industry/
[3] – http://ofii.org/sites/default/files/FDIUS%202017.pdf
[4] – Ibid.

– ALD

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