Using market power

A Market-Based Approach: Public Purchasing Power

Our tax dollars buy about 40 percent of the guns in America. The military buys about 25%, and law enforcement 15%. This is enormous market power.

Every one of these guns purchased by the public sector is bought for one purpose:  the safety and security of Americans.  But if the officials responsible for gun procurement aren’t considering the overall safety practices of the makers of the guns – and most of them are not – then they aren’t achieving the full public benefit of those purchases.

Metro IAF and our allies in this campaign are asking Executive Branch officials at every level of government to change the way they buy guns – to include full consideration of the manufacturers’ commitment to gun safety and responsible gun sales.

This is different from previous efforts by mayors on this issue.  We have great respect for the mayors who have led the effort over the last decade to keep gun violence on the nation’s political agenda and to push Congress to act.  But instead of asking mayors to ask Congress to use its legislative power, this approach asks mayors – and governors, sheriffs, police chiefs, the FBI, the Pentagon, the president – to directly use their purchasing power to address gun violence.

We know, from conversations inside the gun industry as well as from our experience in every other sphere, that there are key players in the gun industry who are seeking ways to not stand idly by – ways of being part of the solution to gun violence in America. The goal of the public officials, investors, religious leaders and others involved in this campaign is to help these key players move their industry forward.

Our success will depend on the scale.  A small jurisdiction, which might purchase twenty police guns every ten years, will have zero impact by itself.  But when a billion-dollar bloc of purchasers is assembled – with small towns and large agencies adopting a similar set of procurement standards and considerations – the market will change, and manufacturers will respond.

This shift won’t happen overnight. But it is beginning now.

[Read Chapter 7 of Paul Barrett’s fine book, Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, for a revealing look at how police gun procurement was done in the recent past.]