US gun manufacturers made 11.1 million firearms in 2020, which is 5.4 million more than that manufactured in 2010. Pistols and rifles accounted for 75 percent of the total.
Since the beginning of this year, there have been over 200 mass shootings in the US, the latest being at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two teachers were shot dead. Americans, including politicians, have blamed the culprits, mental health and inadequate security for the bloodshed.
"I'm very sorry it happened. But guns are not the problem, OK. People are the problem,” The New York Times quoted Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville as saying.
Despite the clamour on violence, makers of guns have escaped scrutiny despite playing a major role in influencing American gun culture, Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences, Boston University, wrote in The Conversation.
According to a report by Pew Research Centre in 2021, a third of adults personally own a gun in the US.
Why do Americans own guns?
Americans buy guns for personal security, hunting and sport. A survey by Gallup in 2021 found that 88 percent of gun owners bought guns for self-defence, much higher than 67 percent in 2005.
In 2019, a Gallup survey revealed that only a smaller share of people kept guns for hunting (40 percent), nonspecific recreation or sport (11 percent), as an antique or family heirloom (6 percent) or was related to their line of work (5 percent).
The percentage of gun owners who kept firearms for hunting fell from almost 60 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2019. The percentage of those who kept firearms for “sport” fell even more.
A similar survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2017 found 74 percent of gun owners said the right to own guns was essential for their personal sense of freedom. Half of all gun owners believe it was important to their identity, while 25 percent said it was very important and another 25 percent called it somewhat important.
In the US, a couple of states like Utah and Florida, have also adopted “stand your ground” laws in recent years, which allows people to use guns for self-defence when under threat.
In 2006, 11 states in the US enacted the “stand your ground” laws. Since then, another 15 states have passed such laws.
These laws were enacted as part of concerted National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbying. The NRA is the most powerful gun-owners' organisation in the US, which lobbies against gun-control laws.
Fear of crime
Earlier, Americans used the gun as a tool, David Courtwright, a history professor at the University of North Florida, told AFP in 2017.
However, the fear of rising crime since the 1960s has a larger role to play in gun ownership today, experts said.
The NRA played a key role in helping sell the notion that Americans needed a gun to protect themselves, Adam Winkler, professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles, told AFP. The idea connected well with the vision Americans had about themselves.
"This is what a self-reliant, upstanding individual does. They protect themselves, they protect their family and they don't stand down to anybody," Winkler said.
This led to the gun rights movement becoming a real force in American politics, the expert said.
What is the NRA?
After a mass shooting in the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2012 in which 26 persons, mostly children, were killed, the Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress said they were willing to consider new legislation. However, a week later NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
Founded in 1871, the NRA has a lobbying arm since 1975, which influences government policy. It also has a Political Action Committee (PAC) that channels funds to legislators.
The association has faced criticism for opposing measures to restrict gun ownership. On the other hand, it supports legislation that expands gun rights like the "open-carry" laws, which allows gun owners to openly carry weapons in public places.
Following the Texas shooting last month, the NRA condemned the act, calling it a "horrific and evil crime". It said the act was that of a "lone, deranged criminal". The lobby said it would redouble its commitment to making schools more secure.
Top gun manufacturers in US
According to a report by PBS News Hour, Smith & Wesson was the top manufacturer of pistols in the US in 2020, making 1,557,174 guns in that year. This was followed by Sig Sauer and Sturm, Ruger & Co, who manufactured 1,018,063 and 772,382 guns the same year. Glock and Kimber Manufacturing ranked third and fourth among top pistol manufacturers in the US, producing 445,442 and 212,395 guns, respectively.
Among rifle makers, Sturm, Ruger & Co., Smith & Wesson and Springfield led the list, producing 617,725, 492,298 and 232,108 rifles in 2020.
Maverick Arms was the leading producer of shotguns, manufacturing 245,946 guns in 2020, while Heritage Manufacturing was the leading revolver maker, producing 306,159 guns the same year.
In 2020, the top five pistol manufacturers in the US alone controlled more than 70 percent of the production of firearms. These five manufacturers are Smith & Wesson, Sturm, Ruger & Co, Glock, Sig Sauer and Kimber Manufacturing. Among rifle manufacturers, Sturm, Smith & Wesson, Diamondback Firearms, Henry Rac Holding and Springfield controlled 61 percent of the market.
Production and sales over the years
US gun manufacturers made 11.1 million firearms in 2020, which is 5.4 million more than that manufactured in 2010. Pistols and rifles accounted for 75 percent of the total, PBS News Hour reported.
In 2020, Americans bought 22.8 million guns, much higher than its pre-pandemic record of 16.7 million in 2016, Forbes reported quoting data from Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting.
(Edited by : Priyanka Deshpande)
First Published: IST