It was this type of marketing that turned the AR-15 into a huge cash cow for the firearms industry. As a new committee report shows, this weaponry generates hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales, with marketing tactics aimed at young men concerned about their masculinity.
Busse’s testimony and the information gathered by the committee showed how determined the gun industry — and the Republican Party — have become to get military-grade weapons into civilian hands, regardless of the number of lives it costs. But they have also shown that it will be virtually impossible to undo what has been done, or even prevent it from getting worse.
Currently, a bill to ban new military-style weapon sales is being passed in the House; the Judiciary Committee approved it in a party vote last week. President Biden has approved a ban.
But in highlighting the ubiquity of these deadly weapons, the Oversight Committee report and testimony highlighted the very factor that gun advocates, including those on the Supreme Court, will use to isolate these weapons from the regulations.
As Busse testified, the industry markets AR-15s by telling people they can “use what the special forces guys use” and by having weapons appear in movies and shooting video games. The first person. Busse said: “The industry tolerates creepy marketing that overtly associates itself with national terror [organizations] like the Boogaloo Bois, a group that hopes for race wars and wears Hawaiian shirts.”
And the committee’s report shows how a company is selling an AR-15 adorned with a Hawaiian shirt design, called the “Big Igloo Aloha” rifle. “Big Igloo” is a variation of “Boogaloo” on social media.
This all adds up to an industry that consciously markets its products not as a means to responsibly defend your home, but as an instrument of murder and mayhem.
Given that the idea of an assault weapons ban is quite popular, you’d think it would have a chance of being enacted, especially given the seemingly endless number of mass shootings involving AR-type weapons. -15. But even if it could pass Congress — a tough proposition at best given Republican opposition — the industry and its GOP allies have an insurance policy.
For people in most parts of the world, the idea that in the United States almost anyone can walk into a store and walk out with a military-style rifle is insane. But gun advocates have created facts on the ground ensuring that this reality cannot be undone.
Consider politics first. As Busse noted, it was not until the expiration in 2004 of the assault weapons ban included in the 1994 Crime Bill that gun manufacturers realized the riches awaiting them if they ventured into the AR-15 business. Whereas previously only a few companies produced these weapons, today about 500 such companies do so. According to some estimates, up to 24 million AR-15 type weapons are currently in circulation.
Which means a ban on new manufactures and sales would have limited effect – and you can forget about confiscating the ones people already own. The industry has used its marketing and sales acumen to create an AR-15 constituency where there was none before.
And the very madness of a society in which these weapons are so common is now used as legal justification for why they must stay common.
In District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 case that created an individual right to own guns in DC, Judge Antonin Scalia focused on a single line of a 1939 case involving Revolution-era militia members having weapons “in common use at the time”. Scalia elevated this to a standard to be used in the future when judging whether a particular weapon should be guarded, even if military-style weapons were not at issue in that particular case.
Nor were they at issue in the recent decision of New York State Rifles and Pistols Association vs. Bruen who struck down laws prohibiting people carrying guns outside the home. But the majority opinion of Judge Clarence Thomas mentioned the term “common use” five times.
This is how the facts on the ground now work. The firearms industry has made the AR-15 “common”. Therefore, no matter how many children are slaughtered with it, that means it should have constitutional protection.
We often hear this argument in the world of firearms. You see it during an exchange during a Judiciary Committee debate on the assault weapons ban. “Would anyone on the other side dispute that this bill would ban weapons that are commonly used in the United States today?” asked Rep. Dan Bishop (RN.C.). “That’s the purpose of the bill,” replied the chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (DN.Y.). “The problem is that they are in common use.”
For gun advocates, the case is closed: AR-15s are common, so they can’t be banned. While conservatives on the Supreme Court have yet to specifically apply this interpretation of the Second Amendment to AR-15s, the gun industry and its allies clearly believe this is where the justices speak.
Thus, the more AR-15s are sold, the more difficult it will be to ban them politically, and perhaps also legally. The result will be an increasing cycle of violence and intimidation.
“Nobody in the industry is going to stop him,” Busse said. “And it’s going to get worse.”