File it under depressingly predictable: Wednesday and Thursday, Senate Republicans and Democrats were running into political friction as they tried to turn the modest set of “breakthrough” gun-safety proposals into actual legislation. Though we are decidedly underwhelmed by the ideas — including incentives to states to enact “red flag” laws; extra scrutiny of young gun buyers; and more spending on mental health care and school safety — it would be an epic failure if, in the wake of two galvanizing mass shootings by 18-year-olds and amidst record gun violence, nothing gets done, again.
Executives around the country who want to change America’s rancid culture of violence have another tool at their disposal, beyond simply waiting for Congress and state legislatures to pass better laws. They can use their leverage as firearm buyers to pressure gun companies to behave more responsibly.
As Rev. David Brawley, Rabbi Joel Mosbacher and Mike Gecan of Metro Industrial Areas Foundation wrote in these pages last month, cities, states and the federal government, are gunmakers’ biggest customers — and, if they have the guts and gumption, can place strict conditions on those purchases and possibly drag the companies toward more responsible behavior.
For one, they can demand that gunmakers who do business with them stop doing business with the small fraction of dealers that supply the lion’s share of weapons that show up at crime scenes.
Two, they can require manufacturers to move much faster in embracing technology that would disable stolen guns and prevent accidental deaths of children who grab adult guns.
Three, as Bloomberg’s Timothy O’Brien recommends, they could present a stark choice to gun makers: stop selling military-grade firearms like the AR-15 to the general public — or lose the business of those who buy them for actual military and paramilitary use.
Gunmakers might respond to such pressure with a giant scoff and a series of lawsuits. But with 45,000 gun deaths annually, there are worse things than trying and failing to change the equation.