Skip to main content

Gun makers, help keep weapons out of criminals' hands

By Kevin Bradford, Special to CNN
updated 11:16 AM EST, Wed January 30, 2013
A trash bin holds handguns collected during a recent gun buyback program in Los Angeles.
A trash bin holds handguns collected during a recent gun buyback program in Los Angeles.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kevin Bradford: Each year 30,000 killed and 300,000 violent crimes committed with guns
  • It's also a marketing problem, he says. Manufacturers are not monitoring distribution of guns
  • Bradford: Laws are minimal, manufacturers are not putting safeguards into place
  • He says use gun lobby tactic: Grade manufacturers on ability to keep guns from criminals

Editor's note: Kevin D. Bradford is an associate professional specialist in marketing at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. He teaches and researches issues within the marketing system and its relationship to society. On Thursday, watch the Anderson Cooper 360° Town Hall: "Guns Under Fire" at 8pm ET on CNN.

(CNN) -- Each year, about 30,000 people are killed and 300,000 violent crimes are committed with firearms. In economic terms, firearm violence -- for things such as medical care, police, criminal justice, lost productivity, pain and suffering -- costs $100 billion a year, according to studies by Johns Hopkins University and the Public Services Research Institute.

This reality tears at the social fabric of the United States, and Americans pay the social and psychological consequences. But the gun debate will continue to be a one-sided fight until the American public chooses to take action.

Kevin Bradford
Kevin Bradford

Most of the debate revolves around what government should do. But we can also look at the issue as a marketing problem. American consumers are the central part of a vast aggregate marketing system, and the central issue as it pertains to guns is power.

The gun lobby has wielded its power effectively, but the potentially powerful American consumer market has not. The gun lobby influences how guns are marketed and under which laws. The only difference between the gun lobby and concerned Americans is that the gun lobby -- and thus the politicians supporting the gun lobby -- pays attention to details.

Opinion: In the gun control debate, logic goes out the window

It has made its primary goal to vehemently block any change to gun laws for fear that passage of even one law could lead to the eradication of firearms for all.

But that is not the issue here. Many concerned citizens are not advocating the abolition of firearms for responsible gun owners.

The problem is that there are too few and very limited laws to force manufacturers to safeguard their distribution channels, and manufacturers are not putting these safeguards into place.

Our research found that about 45% to 60% of the guns traced to crime came from about 1% of the nation's gun dealers and that implementation of safeguards is associated with a smaller number of guns being diverted to crime or used in crime. Interestingly, many of the common sense distribution laws that would force a safer distribution of firearms are in place for other industries that sell products that can cause harm.

Opinion: A father's murder, a plea on gun control

Firearms product diversion involves the seepage of guns from legal channels of distribution into illegal hands.

Gabrielle Giffords: We must do something
Feinstein bill targets assault weapons

To prevent this from occurring, firearms manufacturers have the opportunity to implement distribution safeguards, common across many of the industries that manufacture products that can cause harm (such as explosives, fireworks, and pharmaceuticals).

Such safeguards include manufacturers training their dealers and distributors to identify and handle illegal purchasers at the point of sale, developing a code of conduct for distributors, and requiring them to implement record keeping measures in order to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Gabby and Mark: The new 'Bradys' of gun control

The notion of safeguarding is important because a recent study found that 1 in 9 (11%) of handguns distributed into legal channels in 1996 were found to have been used in crime by 2000. It was also found that one manufacturer had 55% of its guns end up in crime during this time period (the range was 2% to 55% for all manufacturers studied).

This study also found that the number of safeguards used across the studied firms (which accounted for over 90% of the U.S. gun sales) was very low, averaging less than one safeguard (.77) per firm. Only a slight majority employed any recommended safeguards during that time.

One reason the public has not been paying attention is that they think the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can address enforcement for us. But at this point, the bureau needs our help -- it does not have the resources to combat this problem, because gun lobbies and the politicians who support them have tied its hands. So, Americans must act.

The National Rifle Association grades political candidates on their voting history, giving high marks to those who vote for its policies. These ratings influence how guns are distributed in the United States.

In response, concerned citizens should do the same thing.

We should grade firearms manufacturers on how well they address distribution and the diversion of their guns to criminals. Americans should look at these grades and buy firearms accordingly.

The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns suggests that if manufacturers don't comply with set goals of safety, the nation's mayors and municipalities will not do business with them. Concerned Americans should follow suit.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kevin Bradford.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT