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William Rivers Pitt | Selling the Shooting

It’s about making the product they produce attractive enough to purchase over and over and over again.

Fuck you, that’s my name. You know why, mister? ‘Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, and I drove an $80,000 BMW…only one thing counts in this life: get them to sign on the line which is dotted.

– Glengarry Glen Ross

A few hours before President Obama and Vice President Biden unveiled their proposals for gun reform in America, the National Rifle Association launched a preemptive strike on the president’s children. To wit: an NRA-sponsored television commercial claimed that, because Sasha and Malia get armed guards in school and your kids don’t, Mr. Obama is an elitist hypocrite.

Leaving aside the colossal tin-eared stupidity involved in attacking children in the midst of a debate that was initiated after 20 children were slaughtered, and notwithstanding the fact that, to no small degree, the presidential children need bodyguards to protect them from the very audience targeted by that NRA ad, the simple, ugly truth of the matter is that this most recent example of the NRA’s psychotic nonsense is pretty much what we can expect to hear now that the gun gauntlet has finally been thrown down.

The substance of the Obama administration’s proposals are historic in scope: enact a stronger assault weapons ban, limit the size of ammunition magazines, require universal background checks for all gun sales, strengthen mental health treatment options, and empower schools to deal with gun violence threats while addressing issues of bullying. Beyond that, Mr. Obama released a list of 23 Executive Orders aimed at beefing up existing gun laws, allowing the Centers for Disease Control to research the underlying causes of gun violence (something the GOP successfully quashed for years), and reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes.

On the whole, the administration’s proposals are about as bold as one could hope for in this day and age; more than 900 people have been shot to death since the massacre at Sandy Hook, and Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot through the skull, and President Reagan was shot way back when, and his press secretary took a bullet to the head that day and has spent his whole life since trying to keep that from happening to anyone else, and Columbine happened, and Aurora happened, and the Sikh temple massacre happened, and the body count from American gun violence has been spinning like the fare meter on a Manhattan taxicab since Bobby Kennedy got his brains blown out in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen almost 50 years ago, and still, after everything that has happened and after everything we know, we all somehow became convinced that stuffing the Biblical camel through the eye of the Biblical needle would be easier than passing sensible gun control legislation on a national level in America.

That, my friends, is salesmanship.

Salesmanship the likes of which has rarely been seen in history, even in this nation of boiling commercialism. It is no small accomplishment to convince millions of people that their safety and security – indeed, their very existence as a nation – absolutely depends upon the astonishing preponderance of devices that kill them on the hour, every hour, every day.

All the gun lobby does is bellow about freedom, about the Constitution, about preserving the ability to defend oneself against the onset of an intrusive, tyrannical government. This is the song that has been sung for decades now, to the point that it is holy writ to those who think the ability to own an AR-15 with a magazine capacity large enough to take out half of Yankee Stadium, should the need somehow arise, is the apotheosis of American freedom. Good luck with that; send me a note from the front, hero. I’m sure your Red Dawn fantasy will unspool itself any day now.

Convincing so many people that their freedom is inviolably attached to things that kill them in piles every single day is amazingly successful salesmanship…and as we embark upon this national debate over guns, we must encompass this essential truth: all the grandstanding over personal freedom, over the Constitution, over the ability to defend oneself against the government, is the end-product of perhaps the most magnificent sales job ever deployed against anyone, ever.

Understand the bottom line here, best described by an astute observer: “I think the real problem gun manufacturers face is an inability to build planned obsolescence into their products. Unlike other instrument with moving parts, a gun can continue to shoot for a very, very long time. Hence, for gun manufacturers to remain profitable, the number of firearms in society and their lethality must continually increase if for no other reason than to maintain enough novelty to encourage new purchases.”

There it is.

The root of the problem.

The NRA and the gun lobby in general getting into bed with the Republicans and the far right, all the shouting about freedom and the Constitution, is just window-dressing to the gun-makers. They don’t believe that baloney; they just use it to sell their products, because unlike a Toyota or a blender, their products pretty much last forever.

There was a company once that made tractors, the best damned tractors ever assembled by anyone ever, and every farmer in the country bought one…and after a while, the company that made those excellent tractors went out of business, because all anyone needed was one, and the one they bought lasted forever, so no one ever bought another one.

For the gun-makers, it is about making the product they produce attractive enough to purchase over and over and over again. That is the only way they will be able to stay in business. Period, end of file.

We are going to hear a great deal of insane noise now that debate over guns in America has been fully engaged by – yeah, I’ll say it – a president I am proud of today. Do not ever forget, no matter the rhetoric that gets wrapped up in this argument, that this is about the ability to sell guns. This isn’t about freedom or the Constitution or anything else for the gun-makers and their friends.

It’s a sales pitch, and nothing more.

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