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.
[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.]
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.
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.
Initial Steps: Asking Questions and Learning from Manufacturers’ Responses
The first step is to ask the manufacturers that sell (or might sell) guns to public-sector agencies to provide information about their capabilities and practices.
This fall, chief executives and law enforcement officials from jurisdictions across the nation will be submitting a joint REQUEST FOR INFORMATION to gun manufacturers.
Metro IAF has been meeting with mayors, governors, sheriffs, police chiefs, county executives and other officials to ask them to take this first action together, and to form an ongoing GUN BUYERS’ RESEARCH GROUP. This group will continue to press for answers from manufacturers and to explore common concerns around gun safety, responsible distribution, and how manufacturers can best assist law enforcement in limiting illegal gun trafficking.
What will emerge from this first phase is an initial sense of which industry players are leaders in these areas, and are most responsive to the concerns of public-sector customers.
We will likely see the emergence of two business models among the manufacturers:
• Some companies will be wedded to a “race to the bottom” model. They will respond to public-sector inquiries with threats of various kinds – threats of boycotts, threats of relocating manufacturing operations, threats of electoral payback. They will continue to encourage U.S. states to out-do one another in the laxity of their gun regulations.
• Other companies will be receptive to a “race to the top,” where companies compete with one another on the basis of product quality, and compete to meet high standards of safety and responsibility.
The “race to the bottom” manufacturers will try to suppress the emerging market for safer, smarter guns and sales practices. The “race to the top” group will recognize opportunities in this new market and respond.
These responses will help inform future public-sector purchasing decisions for years to come.
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.