At the risk of seeming insensitive, the Clackamas Mall shooting didn’t rack-up a high enough body count to dominate an extremely busy news cycle. Not with the political tussling on the edge of the fiscal cliff, the carnage created by the Arab [spring into] fall in Syria, the brawls over Michigan’s Right to Work legislation and North Korea’s high-flying nuclear ambitions. Not to mention the fact that NBC sportscaster Bob Costas’ half-baked half-time pro-gun control rant had already soaked up all the notable quotables in the gun “debate.” Despite the fact that Jacob Roberts “could have killed Santa Claus” with an “assault rifle,” Clackamas is fading from view. But not before the gun control industry gets a few good kicks in . . .
The Media Wing of the “You Can’t Touch That” lobby has one of its members embedded inside the Forbes conglomerate. Adam Brown has penned an anti-gun article cleverly disguised as a business piece: Type Of Rifle In Oregon Mall Shooting Drives Gun Profits And Youth Interest.
The horrific episode underscores several important elements about today’s gun business. The rifle model used by Jacob Tyler Roberts—the 22-year-old cited in numerous media reports as the killer—was an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. If you’ve watched Deer Hunter or Full Metal Jacket, or, hell, any movie about the military in the past five decades, you’ve seen what inspired the design of the AR-15: the field weapon issued to infantrymen. Significantly, those combat weapons are automatic. You need only hold the trigger to fire the bullets. An AR-15 is semiautomatic. With that weapon, you must press the trigger each time.
Whatup with using spree killers’ middle names? Anyway, can you sense what’s about to happen here? Neither could I; not after mentally hat tipping Brown for explaining the difference between a machine gun and a semi-automatic modern black home defense sporting rifle. Not that it’s that important.
Gun companies today make the AR-15 in that style because it evokes the toughness and cunning of a green beret. Who wouldn’t want to feel like a backyard John Wayne? The attraction is undeniable. Only a year Robert’s elder, I felt it when visiting the factory of Sturm, Ruger—America’s largest gunmaker and No. 4 on our Best Small Companies list—and handled such a weapon.
All that’s needed there: a quote from Bob Costas about “America’s dangerous gun culture.” I guess the fact that AR’s are reliable, ergonomically sound, accurate, cheap to buy, cheap to run, easily customized, fun and durable’s got nothing to do with it. It’s all about John Wayne [not Gacey].
Hey Brown, do you think guys yours and Roberts’ age even know who the Duke is? Just askin’ . . .
Ruger CEO Mike Fifer told me that those military-style weapons—called modern sporting rifles in an effort to apply more neutral branding—are meant for ex-serviceman. The closely held Freedom Group, which is the nation’s leader in long guns, is not as tight lipped about why these weapons are made and who they’re made for: “We believe the adoption of the modern sporting rifle has led to increased long-term growth in the long gun market while attracting a younger generation of shooters. We anticipate a renewed interest in the outdoors driving increased participation in hunting and target shooting.” Those were the (now) eerie words included in a recent annual report to Freedom Group shareholders.
We’ve given the Freedom Group plenty of stick over time, but how does the Clackamas shooting reflect on the ballistic Borg in any way, shape or form? The boilerplate PR statement may be as bland as INSERT BRITISH FOOD ITEM HERE, but it’s spot on (as the Brits are wont to say).
While Robert’s rampage is a chilling sign about who might be attracted to an AR-15, gun enthusiasts should rest relatively easy. He didn’t buy it, apparently. He stole it. That relieves any tension about how such an apparently deranged individual could buy such a deadly item. Obama couldn’t use him to justify stricter laws, even if he wanted too.
Well that’s a relief. In a way. Reading between the lines, Brown would like to tell Forbes readers that AR-15 buyers are paranoid fantasists whose number includes [an unspecified number of] psycho-killers. Which he does. Obliquely.
What he needs to do is get out and shoot the damn gun. A lot. Either that or stop trying to diss one of the few industries that’s made money under the anti-capitalist cloud hovering over the American economy.