Eliot Spitzer, who’s still known in some circles as Client No. 9, has surveyed the American political landscape regarding gun control in the wake of the Aurora and Sikh Temple shootings and has found it wanting. In a piece for Newsday yesterday, he lamented that, “Mitt Romney hides behind a misunderstanding of the Second Amendment, and the White House blames Congress.” But like Ford, the fallen governor has a better idea – one for taking a big bite out of semi-automatic weapons sold to the public. He wants to harness the power of the marketplace . . .
No really. To be more accurate, Spitzer wants to use government’s purchasing power to exert a little influence on gunmakers to stop selling firearms the President and Mayor Mike don’t like.
The government uses its power in the marketplace to influence private companies all the time. Here are just two examples. The infamous TARP program made bailout funds conditional on limits to executive compensation, and properly so. And contractors who want to work for government entities, at the municipal level in particular, in many cases have to pay a “living wage” and ensure diversity in their workforce.
Two sterling examples of government intervention into the private economy, to be sure. Sterling, if you’re into government money being used to prop up too-big-to-fail, poorly run banks (some for the second and third time) and protecting the pensions and jobs of the administration’s big labor backers while throwing investors under the bus. But we digress.
Here is how it could work with guns: The Defense Department and the City of New York are among the largest purchasers of guns. If the president and the mayor truly believe that semiautomatic weapons should not be available to private purchasers, and that magazines with more than 10 bullets should not be sold over the counter, they should simply say that, from now on, the federal government and the City of New York, as a matter of public safety, will not buy any weapons or ammunition from companies that do not agree to pull semiautomatics from their stock and refuse to produce magazines with more than 10 rounds other than for sale to the government.
Obama and Bloomberg should announce that semiautomatic handguns with high-capacity magazines — the kind used in Oak Creek; Aurora, Colo.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Virginia Tech — can no longer be sold to private citizens by any company that wants to do business with the federal government and the City of New York.
The major gun manufacturers will agree to the limits imposed by their major customers.
But will they really? Spitzer vastly overestimates the City of New York’s gun-buying clout. No one, however, underestimates the feds’ pull. So for the sake of argument, let’s say the President and Mayor Mike somehow pull this off this unholy alliance, unilaterally decreeing that from this day forward, all federal and city RFPs will have a clause limiting participating contractors to only those companies that don’t sell semiautomatic firearms to the public.
Unfortunately, after literally minutes of furious Googling, we couldn’t put our hands on percentages of the major gun makers’ sales go to the guv’ment. So just for fun, let’s say – again, just for argument’s sake – that Colt, Freedom Group (Remington, Bushmaster, et. al) and Smith & Wesson decide that it’s in their long term financial interest to stop selling semi-autos to John Q. Gunowner in order to rake in all those juicy taxpayer dollars selling to Uncle Sammy. Oh, and Mike’s army, too.
Raise your hand if you think that the other gunmakers – those who’d be more than content filling the void left by the companies suckling the federal teet – will have much difficulty meeting the demand for semi-auto rifles and handguns left by the government contractors. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
It wouldn’t take companies like Armalite, Glock, Ruger, Mossberg, Springfield, Kahr, Taurus, Kel Tec (and a dozen or so others who’d compete for all that volume) long at all to crank up production or broaden their product lines. And any companies who chose to take Spitzer’s devil’s bargain – in effect telling consumers to sod off in exchange for neutering their civvy product lines – would see a huge chunk of their remaining non-government business dry up and blow away when gunbuyers direct their disposable dollars toward the makers who aren’t seen as collaborators.
So not to burst your narcissistic bubble or anything, Eliot, but your little brainstorm betrays a crushing lack of understanding of the firearms business (not to mention the gun-buying public) in this country. It also vastly underestimates the ability of the free enterprise system to meet a need when one is presented. But that’s really nothing new for dedicated command-and-control, big government types like Spitzer, is it?