You have to hand it to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. They sure know how to make a media splash, don’t they? Most organizations – such as the federal government – use the days just before before a three-day holiday weekend to announce something they’d rather draw as little attention to as possible. Something embarassing. Something they want to slip under the radar as much as possible while people are busy doing other things. Which makes you wonder why they chose to make their announcement that US gun manufacturers have ‘lost’ more than 16,000 guns since 2009 right before the Labor Day weekend…
Was it just piss-poor PR practice that led the Bradys to make their big announcement as the rest of the country was heading out of town or planning barbecues and that last trip to the beach? Or was it something else? Was it simply that even they knew that when you look at their “big news”, there really isn’t any there there?
The reason for the announcement: to rail against the Tiahrt Amendment and claim that the ATF is woefully underfunded with the “shocking” revelation that US gun makers had “lost 16,485 guns in 30 moths from the beginning of 2009 through June of this year.”
“It is shocking that gun makers are so oblivious to public safety that they lose track of thousands of guns every year,” said Dennis Henigan, the acting president of the Brady Center. “ Given the lethality of its product, the gun industry has a special duty to act responsibly. Instead, it has a scandalous record of carelessness.”
Obviously, gun makers opened their loading docks and let anyone who wants to stroll into their warehouses walk out with whatever they can grab. Or so the Brady’s would have you believe. Except that when you look at that 16,485 number in a little perspective, it’s difficult to get too worked up about it.
According to the ATF, US gun makers turned out 11.4 million guns in the first half of 2010. That’s a rate of almost 23 million guns a year. And just because the Brady Campaign may need help with the math, when you extrapolate the statistic, that means in the 30 months they claim the 16,000 guns were “lost”, the American firearms industry produced about 57 million guns.
Again, the Brady Campaign goes to great lengths to cry poor on behalf of the ATF, claiming that due to their meager budget, the agency is only able to inspect about 20% of these manufacturers each year. You can see how it might be difficult getting to all of the gun makers while running guns to Mexican drug cartels and still handle alcohol, tobacco and explosives. The poor dears.
The reason the BCPGV claim the ATF is underfunded is to back up their argument that their 16,485 number is actually “a vast undercount” of the real number of guns that went missing. So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we? We can afford to be magnanimous. If ATF only gets to 20% of gun makers each year as the Bradys claim, in thirty months the ATF should have been able cover about half of them. So let’s double their ‘lost’ number and round it up to 33,000. Just for giggles.
And because we’re throwing around a lot of figures, let’s recap. In the 30 months the Bradys are talking about – again granting that their numbers are accurate – 57 million guns were made in the US. And 33,000 were “lost” by those same manufacturers. That’s a shrinkage rate of .00058. Yes, that’s .058%. And that’s a mind-blowingly small number. Miniscule. Tiny. It’s a manufacturing and inventory shrinkage rate that’s likely the envy of virtually every other manufacturing industry that produces products in similar volumes.
Naturally, the good folks at the Brady Campaign figure that all of those lost guns actually did walk out the factory back door in lunch boxes and backpacks. They don’t even entertain the possibility that a portion of the ATF’s 16,000 number are guns that were actually damaged, defective, destroyed or simply misaccounted for. Just as happens in any other manufacturing business.
Now let’s stipulate that, yes, if your business is making firearms, you probably have more than the average firm’s responsibility to make sure your inventory doesn’t walk out the door. But let’s also acknowledge that the value and portability of that product makes it an attractive target for those with larceny in mind. No matter how good your controls, some inventory will walk.
But that’s the real world, and the Bradys don’t live in anything approaching the real world. They live in the land of public advocacy, a place where evil gun manufacturers save every dime they can on security and control procedures and don’t give a damn what the employees can pilfer.
They also seem to think that gun manufacturers don’t have any other incentives to put those controls in place and manage their product. Incentives like the profit motive. Incentives like avoiding lawsuits like the recent one Kahr settled. Never mind the PR hit. And that is, of course, patently ridiculous. If the gun makers actually ran the kinds of loose operations the Bradys claim, the number of missing guns would easily have been ten times as large. If not more.
And that may be why, again, the Brady Campaign didn’t trumpet their earth-shattering findings today, when the country gets back to business. Instead they issued a press release about an insignificant statistic, making wild claims that don’t pass the the most basic smell test. When you think about it, this could be an indication that even they know they really don’t have anything. Not that they’ll admit that. Too much funding depends on their continued manufactured outrage and moral preening.