Wondering what to do next Friday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after you get out of work? What about the “Harrisburg Gun Show?” with 1,000 tables, 200 of them exhibiting machine guns? That’s what you can read in an ad in the Lancaster Sunday LNP June 24th edition. The event is scheduled for June 19, 20 and 21 at the Pa Farm Show Complex. Besides the machine guns, you can inspect handguns, modern guns, fine antique arms, shotguns, rifles, knives, militaria and accessories. And you can buy, sell or trade!
Rightwing groups such as the National Rifle Association adamantly defend the right of citizens to acquire weapons and, in fact, there are very few restrictions on the purchase even of dangerous arms such as machine guns and rapidly repeating rifles. Even so what is to stop third party purchases?
Repeated shootings at schools and other places have raised voices of alarm concerning the ease with which weapons can be purchased in the U.S.A. Although not directly related to the gun market policy, police in localities across the nation have begun to exhibit weapons and war paraphernalia—in the wake of rising concern over the killings of Afro-Americans by police.
Among the often scary proposals to deal with the shootings and the possible control over the sale of weapons, there have been frankly outlandish proposals such as maintaining armed guards at schools, but the purchase and sale of arms is not only a political issue: it involves an enormous amount of money.
The U.S. is the most “militarized” economy in the world: its present defense budget is $786.6 billion, around a fifth of total budgetary expenditures and slightly less that the budget for social security. The amount of money spent on military related items in the U.S. is more than that spent by the next 13 military spenders around the world.
It is estimated that civilians in the U.S. have approximately 300,000,000 guns or 101 guns per 100 persons.
Defenders of the present lax controls on the purchase or sale of guns point to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." However, the final authority for interpreting the meaning of that amendment is the U.S. Supreme Court, which until now has upheld the right of individuals to buy, sell and bear arms.
Many gun owners purchase guns for hunting. However, many of the weapons on sale—such as machine guns—are not or should not be used for hunting.
Another factor often pointed out is the militarization of U.S. society. Following World War II, General Dwight Eisenhower warned about the “military-industrial complex,” the tendency of military officers to occupy positions in corporations to facilitate business operations. Likewise, the history of the county is so closely associated with war that the country practically has not known an extended period of peace. The wars against the indigenous inhabitants, against the Mexican-Spanish influence in the west, the Civil War, the 1898 war in Cuba and the Philippines, World War I, World War II, numerous military intrusions in the Caribbean, Korea, Vietnam and the present prolonged war in the Middle East.
This has created a cult of the military expressed in the lucrative business of war movies and the bang-bang movies that often occupy the best seller lists, not to mention novels and video games. Politicians from right to left all basically agree on the need for the U.S. to intervene in any country in the world where the country’s “vital interests” are involved.
Since the Cold War Washington has argued that peace can only be maintained by maintaining a defense system so powerful that it can act as a deterrent to any potential aggressor. A similar argument is used by those who defend free access to guns in the country: they argue that possession of weapons deter potential aggressors.
Where is this mentality taking the country? Is it true that having bigger and better weapons can keep the peace? Is it not true that the illegal sale of weapons around the world is one of the world’s most profitable businesses? Is there not a danger that these weapons fall into the hands of groups involved in extremist or warlike activities? Is there not also a potential danger in converting wars into private affairs with private armies provided with weapons purchased on the “free market?”