Massacres of children are good for business. That was the number one lesson I learned from my weekend in Newtown, CT., a year ago. While much of rational—or, at least, polite—America made a show of grieving over the deaths of 20 little children in Newtown, CT., a few miles north up at the K-5 Gun Exchange in Hamden, owner Frank Guerra was literally selling a gun a minute in a store crowded with eager gun-buyers.
So, while there is all this blather in Congress and state legislatures about keeping guns out of the hands of the emotionally disturbed, that really can’t be done. Because our emotional disturbance is national and pervasive and caused by greed, the true religion of capitalism.
Adam Lanza and the rest of his countrymen in the land of the nuts—the whackos who have such easy access to guns–are just unpaid salesmen for the gun industry. Media attention is just free advertising. Sales spiked as much as a third after the slaughter of 20 children and six teachers.
The truth is most of us must be suffering from some sort of mental illness that results from the numbing of a part of our brain by nothing more nor less mysterious than greed. One of my readers here, Deborah Zitomer, captured it perfectly—in the wake of the slaughter of the innocents, America rushed to the defense of guns and gun owners, not to shield their children.
On that December weekend a year ago, Star-Ledger photographer Frances Wicklow and I drove from Newtown to Hamden to see how that local gun dealer was doing. It shocked me how naïve my 66-year-old self was to believe the place would be all but empty, the owner and its few customers shamed by what had happened. Maybe with former customers bringing their guns back in complete disgust.
The place was packed. A few made jokes about the cases containing pink pistols—ha, ha, girly guns—but most of the men there were deadly serious about buying new guns, at anywhere from $900 to $1,500 a pop.
Guerra begged off an interview because he was so busy and, after a while, he grew edgy because his customers didn’t like liberal, gun-hating journalists—Wicklow grew up around guns and knew more about them than some of the customers. But, yeah, he nailed me—I am one of those bleeding heart liberals who just hates to see children slaughtered for gun rights.
Offering a defense of the obscene but lucrative commerce occurring before us was a guy named Chuck Moon. He owns a small business that cuts pieces that eventually make their way into guns and into the hands of patriotic Americans and, occasionally, child-killers. My interview with him persuaded me no gun-based atrocity, not matter how outrageous, no matter how many children die, would ever result in meaningful gun regulation.
Because it’s not the Second Amendment we’re talking about. Not a clash of Constitutional values. Not a choice between security and safety. It’s, like Pope Francis has been teaching lately, just business. Nothing personal.
If you want to know how much business, check out the website of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It’s a pro-gun group that is located just a few miles from the blood-stained Sandy Hook elementary school. According to the people who run the NSSF, the gun trade pumps $33 billion into the economy and provides more than 200,000 jobs. The figures for New Jersey are $650,000 in economic impact and 52,000 jobs.
Forget the shrines. The Teddy Bears. The church vigils. The candles. That’s just for show. So here is what America—or, at least, the people who make decisions in America–must really think: Losing 20 children and their teachers is a small price to pay for the continued success of the gun industry and its supporters.
This is my favorite quote of the weekend in Hell last year. It was from Chuck Moon:
“Please say I cried when I heard about those children — I still do now.’’