Do you recall significant events that impacted your life? I think we all do. What about a date or event that stands out specific to the firearms industry or those impacting the Second Amendment? Requests like this sometimes come with a bit of research. Sure, when my publisher, Patrick, approached me for this article I had several milestones or impactful occurrences that popped into my head. I wasn’t able to articulate each of them and when they took place though. That pushed me to research the history of firearm industry events that held lasting implications for us all and put them together for this article.
#5 Al Capone. Ok, not just Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone, but the era of genuine gangsters led to a huge alteration of the industry that has been an ever rising hurdle for us all. When thugs like Bugsy Siegel, John Dillinger, and Baby Face Nelson were tearing up the streets of cities across America, the US government put the treasury department among others on the case. Famous now by the movie “The Untouchables” which I happened to enjoy quite a bit, we caught a glimpse of how the treasury was trying to be rid of bootleggers who were running booze made illegal by the Prohibition. As a result of the war on booze, we now enjoy two things – the ATF, and the NFA.
The treasury department had expanded greatly and when the prohibition ended and was repealed, there were hundreds of treasury agents standing around wondering what they were going to do. If there’s one thing constant in life it is death. It comes to us all. Second only to death is the proclivity for our government to expand itself. Since the treasury didn’t want to actually let anyone go, they formed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and miraculously found room for every former treasury agent. Oh joy. Besides, why not tax and milk the extras in life like booze, cigarettes and chew, and guns? Sounds like a bargain, right?
The NFA (National Firearms Act) was a joke from the start. Essentially the folks chasing gangsters wanted more charges to throw at each thug when apprehended. Prosecutors weren’t making things stick, or simply were pleading arrests down even back then, so the case was made to make the firearms used in their crimes illegal.
Popular weapons like the Tommy Gun that had been well used in America for purposes ranging from hunting to war, were made illegal as the gangsters were walking around with them under their trench coats. The NFA, as is usually the case, didn’t have the desired impact. Instead of curtailing criminal activity, it made forever lasting ramifications on the good guys. Does anyone here really think a criminal says “Oh golly, that’s illegal, I can’t do that” when we pass a law? Nope. Like always, a good guy who doesn’t misuse a weapon is systematically stripped of rights and law abiding ownership and use. Machine guns, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, suppressors, and a list of “destructive devices” were lumped into the NFA and henceforth regulated. The government assigned you pay a $200 tax stamp for the ownership of each individual weapon. That’s roughly $3500 in 2015 dollars. You might find it interesting to know that revolvers and pistols were originally on the NFA list, but were removed at the last moment. Imagine an America where your granddaddy was instantly a criminal for owning his trusty ol’ Ruger Single Six?
From that day forth in 1934 our industry was split and we were horribly locked into regulation on a federal level. Now all 50 states allow or disallow the ownership of various NFA items in the manner each state sees fit. Iowa currently allows no NFA ownership whatsoever to its residents. Oddly nearly all our neighboring states do. What corrupt DNA strain or ‘irresponsibility gene’ are Iowans afflicted by to deserve being locked out to what 44 others states possess in some fashion? Layers of paperwork, elevated costs, government intrusion and control upon its law abiding citizens were the result of the crimes of a handful of gangsters and it will affect our country and our citizens forever.
#4 Current events. Current events shape our industry too often, or at least more often that we’d like. Recent examples would be the election of outspoken anti-gun presidents like Barack Hussein Obama. After his election fear within the firearm enthusiast community was very high and the industry was hammered with demand. We experienced that again to a much larger extent in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. Instead of mourning the deaths of countless others and talking about the real problems we have in our culture the political class took an opportunity to further gun control measures. Many remarks were made about President Obama being a gun shop’s best salesperson. I have mixed feelings about that sentiment, but I can’t deny that when politicians push gun control the overwhelming population firmly grasps the facts and they know gun control only hurts the law abiding and never changes a criminals mind.
In response the industry has been forced to be far more flexible and diversified. If you place all your eggs in one basket and there’s a run on that product, so be it. You’ll make some money. At least you’ll make some that day. Where does your revenue come from tomorrow if you can’t get your orders filled? We experienced that in a big way for months and even years on some products. We were all forced as dealers and retailers to our customers to help our customers in other ways or we’d cease to exist. Like it or not, a bubble within the industry can be helpful. You can modify and test your business plan in ways never possible before. Granted, like many notions, that is far easier said than done.
#3 War. War is good for business and it sucks. I’ve never had so much division or duality in my thinking on a subject other than this. I abhor war. I study war, military, and politics nonstop. Essentially they are hopelessly interconnected in my view. I remember when my sister Amy gave me my first hard cover copy “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. I thought I’d never find much value in it at the time, and boy was I wrong. I read it annually and I’m forever grateful sissy put so much thought into a book for me to consider and enjoy. I also read Von Clausewitz “On War” and “The Prince” by Machiavelli every year no matter what. I have come to understand war, very similarly to Von Clausewitz, when he basically stated “war is a continuation of politics by other means” and I think his reflection is fitting.
How is one to feel about war? As a person in it, a person advocating for it, or a person advocating against it, we’re all in different spots. War sells product. War sells ammo, weapons, support structure, and infrastructure items, and it creates innovation. As a person who sells to DOD (Department of Defense) contractors do I deny them product or should larger companies not sell to the military what they need? I have many military personnel that are customers. Do I not support them and wish them the very best on a safe return from the unthinkable? Of course not… I’ll provide them anything I can morally and ethically and hope each person and the person beside them return from the representation of our great nation. But… I don’t have to like war. Not one bit. After all there are two ways to win a war. Either don’t fight it, or plan exactly how you’ll fight it to win and execute the plan. Damage up front leads to overall fewer casualties unfortunately. A point our current political class might need some brushing up with. War stresses and demands a great deal from the industry at any given time.
#2 Customers. Customers shape the industry. It hasn’t been that many years ago you could send your money into the Coast to Coast store and they’d ship you a rifle. The process would take several months in some cases. I remember my uncle telling me that’s how he bought his first rifle. My granddad took him in and they picked it out. They paid and when the rifle was built or in stock rather, it was shipped to the house. Nobody was impatient and that’s simply how it was done. Today things are far different. There are layers of distribution, retailers, and manufacturers. I might add that you’d be hard pressed to see a lot of customers waiting months on retail items. Granted, we do actually have back orders here at the shop for custom shop items or weapons to be run through the custom shop. But if you’re looking to pick up an 870 for your son’s first scatter gun or a new take down 10/22 for your daughter’s 9th birthday you’re not going to wait for several months to get it ordinarily. This gradual change in demand has forced retailers to hold a heck of a lot of inventory to keep people interested. Couple that with the availability to choose the same item from anywhere across the country courtesy of the internet, and you’d better have some stock inventory. A customer can buy a weapon out of state and have it shipped in with ease. Granted, they still have to perform their back ground check and jump through FBI checks to purchase it from the business it was shipped to locally unlike having it shipped to the house from days gone by, but you get my point. There is tons of competition.
It used to be the competition was the occasional Sears & Roebuck catalog or the two town hardware stores. Not today. As a retailer you’re being compared on price to everybody with a website presence. That includes stores across the nation and those individual sellers who have a gun they no longer want to own. The industry has been forced to become competitive or you simply won’t be around long. This is all to the customer’s advantage in most cases. I love it when the consumer is in the driver’s seat.
#1 The Second Amendment. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution would hold the most value for me. It is also one that we feel we understand and in fact we rarely do. What does the 2nd Amendment mean? “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Let’s break it down.
“Well regulated” means to be well practiced and skilled. When the founders wrote this amendment they intended for people to not only own firearms but to know how to use them well. What good would you be against the redcoats if your musket was for show instead of being capable or repelling a foreign force? So literally “well regulated” meant to be well trained and often practiced. I can assure you some soft headed pseudo-intellectual out there right now is trying to tell folks it meant well codified or actually regulated in the sense of having many laws binding and restricting it. That’s just dumb.
“Militia” meant the group of free people who would come to the aid of the country and “States United” when asked. It had nothing to do with the National Guard or an organized standing armed force. The “militia” quite literally were the free born Americans willing to answer the call and form in with an/the organized armed force in defense of their country and countrymen.
When the amendment cites “being necessary to the security of a free State” it dovetails into the meaning of the militia. Keep in mind this wasn’t the “United States” at the time of the 2A’s introduction, but rather think of them as the ‘States United’ instead. The emphasis on the willingness and need to own and operate firearms with knowledge and precision was paramount to the success of the states. After all, should there be a problem the states would need to band together to defend the country against enemies.
“The right of the people” is a mention as a God given right which was backed by the power of law in order to protect i
t. The founders agreed, even those without faith, that the natural right to stay among the living was not to be tampered with and should be held in writing so no alterations or disarmament could occur like it had in so many other countries and times in history.
“Keep and bear arms?” Let’s not be stupid here. Own and carry or use is what that means. Anybody who doesn’t understand that is selling you something. …And you don’t want to buy it, I promise.
Lastly, “Shall not be infringed.” Will not be tampered with, encroached upon, breached, or trespassed against. Even the historically challenged among us can figure that one out.
We’ve broken down the true and enduring meaning of the Second Amendment, but I find it also helps to keep the time period and content in proper context. There were liberals and conservatives back then. Oh yeah. This isn’t a recent concept. Imagine a room full of top minds and well respected people from many areas of the country discussing what would be best for the future of a fledging country entering into what was considered a completely new approach towards true freedom. There was lots of debate. If you research and read the notes from the time this crucial amendment was being crafted it is really awesome to come to the understanding that the 2A we see written today was the moderate position among the founders. The language we see today compromise among liberals and conservatives of the day. A modern day anti Second Amendment nut will paint you as a radical or ‘ultra’ (fill in the blank) for holding the correct and timeless meaning of the 2A. Yet, it became the amendment second only to the first due to much discussion and a true compromise among the framers of the country. Let that soak in. Keep that in context.
The next time some nut tries to ostracize you for holding the factual and correct understanding of the Second Amendment, remind them of the history or better yet, ask them to prove their claims. Most will toss it aside as an inconvenience, but you’ll know the truth and you should be educating others on it too. If you’re really interested in that kind of knowledge, the facts to back it up, the notes that prove and sustain your understanding, and their origin, buy “The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution” by W. Clean Skousen. He and his team worked for years researching the content of that book and it is a great piece for history and reference. I bought it in hard cover from amazon.com for $25. I wrote my name in it, and the date in which I read it. I’m passing it around my family so they too can read it and log their date. My intent is to continue to pass it around the family for generations to come.
If the Second Amendment wasn’t present there wouldn’t be much of an industry at all. In the case of foreign countries void of firearm ownership most private business doesn’t even exist and arms are either sourced elsewhere or are extensions of the state and run by the government. The 2A is to thank for the existence of the industry and your buying choices. No doubt.
That’s my list of some of the factors that have shaped the industry. When it comes to the firearms industry, we tend to make our own positives, while the negatives manage to happen all by themselves. Know what’s going on and you’ll be better for it. As you can see from the list there are a lot of factors that have altered the course of history, but then again there are plenty of chapters yet to pen, so keep it in perspective. Shoot straight and shoot often friends.