After more than twenty years of trying, there’s no way to avoid the following conclusion: The gun manufacturers of America cannot be swayed by reason.
This past week alone, we saw just how true this statement has become.
On Tuesday morning, a gunman opened fire at a FedEx facility in Kennesaw, Georgia wounding six people before being shot and killed himself. Kennesaw is famous for being the Georgia town where every household is mandated to own at least one gun. Although the law is not officially enforced, it is estimated that roughly 50% of town residents do, in fact, own at least one firearm. This event follows last week’s Georgia bill that was signed into law which has become known as the “guns everywhere bill.” The bill gives Georgia residents the ability to take guns into public buildings such as bars, nightclubs, and libraries. Already, we have seen one crazed Georgia resident brandish his gun at a little league baseball game full well knowing that there was nothing the local police could do to stop him.
These events in Georgia follow this past weekend’s NRA convention in Indianapolis, an event that has become a prime opportunity for the rest of the country to see how delusional and paranoid the American gun lobby has become. Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart pointed out how utterly unreal the views were expressed by this year’s participants including comments from Sarah Palin, Marco Rubio, and Wayne LaPierre. There was even a promotional video expressing what has become the NRA’s rallying call since Sandy Hook: The absolute necessity for good guys to have guns. The video’s purpose was to serve as a recruitment tool for the NRA to add to its ever-growing ranks of over 5 million people.
So, what can be done against an army of 5 million Americans led by a powerful group of lobbyists and a CEO who believes every city of America is straight out of Vice City?
How about hitting them where it hurts the most: Their profits.
On Tuesday, over twenty organizations led by Campaign to Unload and States United to Prevent Gun Violence launched a campaign to defund the three major gun manufactures in this country: Strum Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Olin. The purpose of the campaign is simple: To have people take a close look at their 401(k) retirement funds and see if their 401(k) includes any kind of investment in any of the three major gun manufacturing companies. The Unload Your 401K website has a powerful video with parents and family members of those killed or injured at either Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and even those affected by everyday gun violence telling their stories and sharing their disappointment regarding the lack of legislation enacted at the federal level. The video then gets to the heart of the campaign’s message: Gun profits have soared ever since Columbine from $928 million to roughly $4.1 billion today. The worst part? Average people like you or me may very well be helping the gun manufacturers become rich.
How exactly are we helping the gun manufacturers? Jennifer Fiore, Executive Director of Campaign to Unload helped explain the campaign’s goals in her statement which read:
“Divestment is a new front in the war against America’s epidemic of gun violence. It’s time to defund the companies that profit from gun violence and obstruct the political change that would end it. Over 51 million Americans have a 401K retirement plan that could be contributing to the gun lobby– driving wealth to gun manufacturers and funding efforts that have stalled all action in Congress.”
On the main page of the Unload Your 401K website is a search option that allows you to type in your 401(k) provider and it then will provide you with information as to whether or not your provider is invested in the three gun manufacturers. If your provider is invested, the website then gives you three options: Tips on how to unload you 401(k) and work with your company’s human resources department, ways to contact your co-workers to rally them to your cause, and the option of signing up to an email list to stay involved with the issue. Seeing as how the website launched on Tuesday, there most likely will be additional resources added to the website as public awareness increases. In addition to the search option, the website also includes facts about both 401(k) investments concerning gun manufacturers as well as sobering statistics regarding the amount of gun violence in this country.
The Unload Your 401K campaign offers an intriguing new way to address the issue of gun control in this country. The idea of divestment has had historical successes. The most prominent success was that of using divestment as a response to South African apartheid in the 1970s and 1980s. It was this strategy that led to the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 which imposed sanctions against South Africa and eventually help lead to the end of apartheid in 1991. For the gun manufacturers of America, they are absolutely dependent upon their profits and any disruption would cause havoc for the industry.
For those of us who have been repeatedly disheartened, and to be honest, ashamed by the lack of action by our government on gun control, this new campaign gives us a chance to make an impact by taking on the financial side of the gun manufacturers. And, let’s be honest: The whole issue of gun control in this country is directly related to profits. The reason the NRA’s rhetoric now verges on that of paranoia is due simply to the fact that fear sells. Fear convinces people they are unsafe and that they need protection no matter the cost. The more scared they are, the more likely they are willing to pay out big bucks to ensure their safety. For the Unload Your 401K campaign to succeed, those involved need to show the gun manufacturers that they too are willing to spend money to ensure their safety. Only in this case, they must show they are willing to take away money from the gun manufacturers.
If they can do that, then this creative campaign has the chance to deal a serious financial blow to the gun manufacturers in this country.