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Self-defense or recreation: Increasing firearms violence changes landscape of gun industry

Firearms violence is increasing around the world. Photo Credit: Peretz Partensky via flickr

By Excel Dyquiangco

Many people from the United States have decided to arm themselves with guns these days, wary of the rampant crimes involving such weapons. In fact, around 100,000 Americans are injured or killed from firearm violence every year.

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers further discovered a shift in consumer purchase with people buying more-lethal weapons that seem to be primarily designed for self-defense rather than for recreation purposes.

“Our research suggests that guns are increasingly being viewed as having a primary role in self-defense, rather than in use for hunting or sport,” Michael Siegel, MD, MPH, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston MA, said in a statement.

“Public health practitioners need to understand and accept the increasing view, among gun owners, of firearms as a means to security and freedom. Only by acknowledging the value that firearms have in the lives of gun owners can public health practitioners develop programs and policies that respect the desire to own weapons for self-defense while at the same time mitigating the firearm violence that is ravishing our communities,” he added.

While majority of trends in scientific research involving guns have been inclined toward two aspects, which are gun policies and firearm violence victims, there’s not enough information on guns, firearm manufacturers, dealers, as well as the industry lobby, said the study.

According to data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the National Instant Background Checks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, investigators classified the trends in the caliber and the type of guns manufactured from 1990 to 2014 for all the 50 states in the U.S. They discovered that the guns manufactured for domestic concerns ranged from three to five million yearly between the years 1990 and 2005, but later the number rose dramatically.

In 2004, 3.2 million manufactured firearms were recorded, eventually rising to 10.3 million in 2013. The investigators found that the sudden upsurge stemmed from the increased manufacturing of pistols—0.380 and higher caliber—and rifles.

Manufacturing of 0.380 caliber pistols grew by 1200%, while 9 mm pistols and those greater grew by 700% and 250%, respectively, between the years 2004 and 2015. It is important to note in this study of the direct link between the number of firearms being manufactured and the demand of the public for it, which reflects marketing practices in the gun industry and changes in the norms of the society in terms of the role and value of gun ownership.

The study suggested that instead of viewing firearms as something that is of national concern, it can now be seen as a health problem. The authors of this study focused on the firearm industry and the firearm themselves to help them unearth trends that might reduce firearm violence.

“The findings of this study have significant implications for finding working solutions to the problem of firearm violence. Further research is needed to determine whether industry marketing is contributing to a change in the demand for firearms and the cultural perception of guns in society,” said Dr. Siegel, lead investigator of the study.

Siegel’s study findings somehow corroborate a separate study by the Small Arms Survey in October 2016 that identified firearms use as one of the major causes of violent deaths around the world, with 46% of recorded deaths in 2010-2015 or about 214,000 on average per year. The weapons used led to 50% of homicides and 32% of conflict deaths.

Located in Geneva, Switzerland, the Small Arms Survey (SAS) is a global center of excellence that generates “impartial, evidence-based, and policy relevant knowledge on all aspects of small arms and armed violence” and is considered as the “principal international source of expertise, information, and analysis on small arms and armed violence issues, and acts as a resource for governments, policymakers, researchers, and civil society.”

Firearms use was predominant particularly in the Americas (North, South, Central, and the Caribbean), Southern Europe, and Southern Africa. As for Asia, Africa, and Oceania, there’s a need to boost efforts to improve the quality and availability of data on deaths caused by firearms, the SAS study said.

In Croatia and Albania, meanwhile, firearms deaths are quite the opposite, according to the study. While Albania sees both firearm and non-firearm violence developing at an unsteady rate—rising and falling in parallel, Croatia sees firearm homicide at a decreasing level of 70% between 2006 and 2013.

The same is true for Southern Africa and the Caribbean where the former sees an increase in firearm homicide and the latter a decrease between 2007 and 2012. Though Northern America and Southern Europe have much lower violent death rates in comparison to the first two, they exhibited an increase in the use of firearms in violent deaths. Just the same, firearms can account for a substantial proportion of violent deaths irrespective of overall violent death rate of a country, the SAS study emphasized.

Apparently, gun ownership comes with the territory as well.

“Unlike most of the rest of Europe, Switzerland has rather liberal gun laws and high gun ownership. Yet, the country is rather safe,” Daniel Kuettel, 45, a software developer in Switzerland, said to Wired Correspondence.

He admitted not currently owning a gun. “But I don’t mind having one and it could be useful in some cases of violence, but can also be a problem when one has children and is not secured properly.”

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, one businessman looks at owning a gun differently.

“My main purpose of owning a gun is for my sport. I am into practical shooting. I started practical shooting when I was 13 years old. And had my own gun when I was 19. I don’t really look at the gun as a weapon but more of [an] equipment for sports,” 39-year-old Jag Lejano said to Wired Correspondence.

Nevertheless, he does see the benefit of owning a gun for self-defense purposes. “But of course I feel more secured because I know how to use it properly in case I need to,” he said.

About Wired Correspondence (185 Articles)
WIRED CORRESPONDENCE is an online newsmagazine managed by freelance journalists and editors. This is our attempt to break into online journalism, initially covering general news around the world. Our main focus in the near future, however, is to report under-covered or under-reported social issues in the Philippines and elsewhere through narrative, long-form journalism. We aim to help through storytelling.

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