The US gun industry is a $49 billion dollar industry that in 2015 resulted in roughly 290,000 direct and indirect jobs. The industry also costs the American society about $229 billion due to fatal and non-fatal violence. This includes $8.6b in direct costs — emergency response, police investigations, prisons, etc (see video below). The total annual revenue of guns and ammunition manufacturers is about $14 billion ($1.5b profit); while gun stores and associated businesses typically record revenues above $3.1 billion ($479m profit).
$49b amounts to about $154 per capita. The cost, at $229b, is about $720 per capita — more than 4.5 times the economic impact of the gun industry. If these figures are anywhere near the truth then the government should consider becoming an even bigger customer of weapons manufacturers. Or it could simply pay gun manufacturers money so they can limit their annual production of guns.
I don’t buy it.
There’s an analogy with 17th & 18th century European powers’ reliance on the privateer industry to maintain naval power. Whenever a war ended, unemployed privateers would turn pirate. Whenever a war started up again, pirates would be pardoned to turn them back into privateers. As a short-term solution, it was cheaper for states than maintaining permanent navies of the same size, and cheaper than paying to properly re-skill and re-position thousands of dangerous sailors into peaceful professions. And in the long term, all of that piracy put a heavy human and financial cost on the civilians the pirates preyed on.
There’s a similar human and financial cost from letting the weapons manufacturers keep operating, even if it’s an on-and-off cycle. Paying them not to manufacture doesn’t fix the long-term problem; they will eventually make more guns, same as the pirates were only slowed temporarily when they received a ransom payment. In fact, it gives them the freedom and the capital to get even better at what they do. The real long-term solution is to re-skill all those gun manufacturers into better professions. Plowshare manufacturers, perhaps.