Growing up in the bush North of Lake Superior, I, like many others, went hunting. When I turned 15, after taking the hunter safety course, I bought a 410 shot gun, then got a small game licence and went hunting for partridge. I would come home from school and go out on overgrown logging roads to bag a few birds. One day, I was far in on a long-abandoned logging road when a 4 x 4 half-ton truck with four hunters from Minnesota came towards me. These fellows were armed to the teeth and were riding in the back of the box, ready to shoot anything that moved. No wonder there weren’t any birds. I politely said hello and went on my way. I thought, ‘Why couldn’t you get out and walk? Why did you have to show off all of your firearms, and why were you on my turf?’ My high school buddies never talked about hunting, nor did we drive around with guns across our truck’s back window. We just went out on cold miserable days and hunted.
I have long been out of the North, and have since only hunted for a short time when my son wanted to learn. I am just like most of the Americans who hunt or used to hunt: 98 per cent of them are white and in their late 50s. Most of them no longer hunt, and since 1950, the number of hunting licences issued has dropped by 80 per cent (and at the same time, the deer population has doubled to 40,000,000). As it is with them, it is no longer easy to hunt here. There are houses all over the countryside, and you just can’t wander down the road and shoot at rabbits – let alone deer (besides, I like the taste of chicken better than grouse).
By the time George W. Bush became president, the number of hunters had dwindled dramatically and the number of firearms made in the United States had dropped to 3.5 million per year. With not much of a demand for twelve gauge shot guns, gun manufacturers were in dire straits.
This is where the National Rifle Association stepped in to save the day. They started pumping $3.5 million into campaigns for congressional and senate elections. At the same time, they pumped up the electorate with fears of terrorists, immigrants and federal agents. They played on the fears of the white male majority – on its fear of losing its control and of having its masculinity undermined.
The gambit panned out. In 2004, congress repealed the ban on assault rifles, and sales of these deadly rifles took off. The manufacture of guns exploded from 3.5 million per year to 9 million, in just 10 years. Now the real gravy for the gun industry started. No longer were they depending on selling shot guns for $189; they were selling 9mm pistols for $1,100 and assault rifles for $1,500. The good times were rolling until Barack Obama won the presidency. Then the wailing and gnashing of teeth became deafening, because the NRA told their followers that the second amendment was going to be repealed, and all their guns were going to be taken away, along with their independence.
It worked again, and sales spiked. Now there were 265 million guns owned in the U.S. But there were some disturbing statistics showing up. Sixty percent of Americans owned no gun at all, thirty-nine percent owned one or more guns, but only three percent of the population owned half of all the guns. Gun owners were now being dragged towards a gun crisis by three per cent of the population.
Then things started to go terribly wrong. Several mass shootings by psychotic people with assault rifles tarred all rifle owners with the same brush. The survivors of these mass shootings are now suing the manufacturers because these rifles were obviously meant to kill people, and there is no way it could be determined that they were misused. The Connecticut Supreme Court has now cleared the way for these lawsuits to proceed.
At the same time, there was a slackening off of demand. How many more guns could the three percent of the population actually buy? Sales started to drop off dramatically, as the demand had already peaked.
The third hit came with the election of Donald Trump and the control of the Congress by Republicans. Suddenly there is no longer the fear of the repeal of the Second Amendment to drive sales. This is when the financial problems began. Remington, the manufacturer of assault rifles, filed for bankruptcy protection and is now laying off many of its employees. Smith and Wesson announced that sales were down by 40 per cent, and the revenues of the other top gun makers dropped by 13 per cent in one year. Because of the decline in sales, Dicks Sporting Goods are removing rifle and ammunition sales from 125 of its stores. To top off all of these problems, Russian operative Maria Butina has been found guilty of infiltrating the National Rifle Association, thereby influencing the election of Donald Trump.
So, because of a pattern of greed, there are hundreds of grieving families, thousands of terrified students, and millions of divided and frightened Americans.
Jeff Scott is a former councillor for the City of Kingston (Countryside District), and has contributed editorial content local publications for a number of years. He continues to live, work and write in the Countryside district of Kingston, and runs his own blog, The Countryside View. Visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jeffscottthecountrysideview to read more of Jeff’s content.