The Real Merchants of Death

Who are the real merchants of death?

On June 23, President Biden announced “a comprehensive strategy to combat gun violence and other violent crime.” Because “we are experiencing an epidemic of gun violence in this country,” the new strategy “will also address the direct link between gun violence and the rise in violent crime by taking immediate steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands, including by strengthening ATF’s efforts to stem the flow of firearms used in crimes, and by launching multijurisdictional firearms trafficking strike forces to stop illegal gun trafficking across state lines.”

Biden’s main target is gun dealers, whom he holds responsible for the increased gun violence. He wants to “stem the flow of firearms used to commit violence” by

  • Establishing zero tolerance for rogue gun dealers that willfully violate the law.
  • Maximizing the efficacy of ATF resources to crack down on rogue gun dealers violating our laws.
  • Launching multijurisdictional firearms trafficking strike forces.
  • Providing the public with additional data to promote transparency and accountability in enforcement of federally licensed firearms dealer policies.
  • Stemming the proliferation of “ghost guns” and modified firearms.
  • Convening state legislators and Attorneys General regarding policy strategies to hold gun dealers and manufacturers accountable for their contributions to the flow of crime guns.

The President “strongly urges the Senate to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and pass the three House-passed, bipartisan pieces of legislation which would strengthen our gun background check system.”

In his remarks delivered at the White House after those of Attorney General Merrick Garland, President Biden brought up the Second Amendment: “And I might add: The Second Amendment, from the day it was passed, limited the type of people who could own a gun and what type of weapon you could own. You couldn’t buy a cannon.”

The president’s “no cannon” assertion resulted in ridicule from fact checkers all over the political spectrum. But I did not see much pushback to his statement before that about the Second Amendment limiting the type of people who could own a gun and what type they could own. The Second American has never done either. It is politicians, judges, and bureaucrats who have always limited the type of people who could own a gun and what type of weapon they could own, not the Second Amendment.

The president then directly attacked gun dealers:

And the — these merchants of death are breaking the law for profit. They’re selling guns that are killing innocent people. It’s wrong. It’s unacceptable. And as the Attorney General said, we’re going to crack down on those gun dealers and the violent criminals they knowingly arm.

If you willfully sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections, my message to you is this: We’ll find you, and we will seek your license to sell guns. We’ll make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets. It’s an outrage. It has to end, and we’ll end it. Period.

Before getting to the “merchants of death” line, I want to raise two points that it seems like no one is talking about: gun dealer licensing and background checks for gun purchases.

Where in the Constitution does the federal government have the authority to require gun dealers to be licensed? Where in the Constitution does the federal government have the authority to require background checks for gun purchases? Probably in the same place where the Constitution authorizes the federal government to have Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps.

And when was the last time the NRA or a conservative talk-show host or politician questioned federal gun dealer licensing and background checks?

It is ludicrous that Biden would refer to gun dealers as “merchants of death.” The phrase was originally applied to the armament industry during World War I.

Gun dealers are not merchants of death. Far from it. The real merchants of death are the defense contractors who suck at the federal teat and have most members of Congress in their pocket.

According to Bloomberg Government: “In fiscal 2020, defense contract spending hit a record high of $447 billion – representing nearly two thirds of overall federal contract spending. It’s an impressive growth trajectory that we’ve been tracking for years. Pentagon spending surged by $140.6 billion between fiscal 2016 and 2020, with a $42 billion increase in the last year alone.”

Here are the top ten merchants of death:

  1. Lockheed Martin Corp.
  2. Raytheon Co.
  3. General Dynamics Corp.
  4. Boeing Co.
  5. Northrop Grumman Corp.
  6. Analytic Services Inc.
  7. Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.
  8. Humana Inc.
  9. BAE Systems Plc
  10. Harris Corp.

These merchants of death all have contracts worth billions of dollars with the biggest merchant of death on the planet: the U.S. government.