A former gun industry executive speaks out

Ryan Busse, a former vice president of sales for a major gun manufacturer, explains how the gun industry went off the rails and went from advocating sensible gun use to now promoting the massive sales of weapons that are being used in shootings.

[T]here was a time not that long ago, maybe about 15 to 20 years ago, when the industry understood a sort of fragile social contract needed to be maintained on something as immensely powerful as the freedom to own guns. And so the industry didn’t do certain things. It didn’t advertise in egregiously irresponsible ways. It didn’t put, you know, growth, company growth, above all other things. There were just these unspoken codes of conduct the industry knew not to violate. And those seem to have broken down. And now it’s kind of a victory at all costs. And sadly, I think there’s a lot of cost.

There were people who agreed with everything I said before the sort of radical shifts started to happen in about 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. But, you know, as with most things, when you earn a paycheck from something, you’re likely to be greatly influenced by it. And so, over time, most of the people in the industry have either converted to a true belief in the sort of radicalized Second Amendment absolutism that now I think is very dangerous, or they have just left the industry. There is only a place for complete, 100% devotion.

What no other society has had is 425 million guns and this culture, on the right, that tells young men that to be real young men, they must purchase an AR-15 and go out and solve their problems. The industry 15 years ago would not even allow the AR-15 to be used or displayed at its own trade shows. I mean, they were locked up in a corner. You had to have military or police credentials to even go in there. Now, they’re spread around like crazy, and the marketing campaigns are so aimed at young men that in some ways, it’s not shocking that Uvalde or Buffalo or [the July 4 shooting at a parade in the Chicago suburb of] Highland Park, all three heinous crimes, all three committed with AR-15s, all by very young men. It’s not shocking to me that those happen; it’s shocking to me that they don’t happen every day.

You know, I tell the story that 15, 20 years ago, the industry named guns like the Smith & Wesson 629 or the Remington 870 because you had [industry] attorneys that knew that even the names of guns could be important. They could encourage people to do irresponsible things. And so you’d never wanted to even name things that might encourage bad things to happen. Now we have a gun called the Wilson Urban Super Sniper. I mean, what are you supposed to do with that? We now have a gun called the Ultimate Arms Warmonger. What are you supposed to do with that? We now have an AR-15 company called Rooftop Arms, as in when you don’t get what you want, you vote from the rooftops. And what happened in Highland Park? A kid got up and killed people from a rooftop. You see the old self-imposed responsibility; those old norms of behavior have been just completely trashed.

It’s a pretty sobering piece.


  1. Silentbob says

    the gun industry went off the rails and went from advocating sensible gun use to now promoting the massive sales of weapons that are being used in shootings.

    It should be noted that “sensible gun use” can only mean never in your life laying hands on a functioning gun unless absolutely necessary as part of your job.

  2. Silentbob says

    Anytime Americans hear the phrase “sensible gun use”, substitute “sensible hand grenade use” or “sensible bazooka use” to get an idea of how batshit you sound to people in civilized nations.

  3. lanir says

    I think this is one of those occasions where sticking to ideological purity is akin to doing something violent to ones own foot.

    I do understand the point. One of my first thoughts was something along the lines of “Well, yeah… You figured it out but you did it a bit late after making a bunch of money off of doing the wrong thing.” But this guy isn’t the source of the problem. It’s quite a bit bigger than him. And there’s a whole lot more people with a whole lot more money that need to get reined in to resolve the problem.

    A lot of people understand this problem and want it fixed. So why isn’t it? Apparently it’s because we don’t have enough people or the right people making the right kind of ruckus to create the change we need. Maybe what’ll get us over the finish line on some of the solutions we need is recruiting from the ranks of former clowns and bozos who helped create the problem in the first place.

    I know it doesn’t feel good to do that. But I don’t think we’re in a position to tell people like this guy to go home, we’ve got this. Because we don’t.

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