Sunday, September 9, 2018

Leftover firepower for sale

"The Bible justifies the right to bear arms!"

That's what a couple work colleagues told me many years ago. I was intrigued. Not so much by chapter and verse, because I've seen many manipulations of scripture. But I wanted to understand what they really meant.

"Does that include tanks, bazookas, and RPGs? What about nuclear weapons?" I asked.

One of the guys said, "Yes, there's no limit."

For those concerned about the proliferation of military assault weapons in the hands of civilians, this is sobering. But there's a broad spectrum of thought on the Second Amendment and its meaning. And there is a vast variety of influences in the debate. These include enormous sources of revenue from firearms. All this is interlaced with the issue and the long standing tradition of gun ownership, marksmanship and defense, both personal and national.

For example, this week, Bloomberg ran a story on a little known organization that is wealthier than the National Rifle Association (NRA). You can read the expansive story here about the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) that dates back to President Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.

Roosevelt was concerned that American citizens, if drafted to fight in a war, might not know how to wield weapons. That was the purpose of the CMP. To train civilians. Of course, during the Spanish-American War, we didn't have the mammoth "big stick" defense budget we have today and massive corp of troops, sailors, airmen and marines.

By the end of the 20th century, Uncle Sam declared the CMP obsolete. Congress didn't agree. So, among the other surprises you'll discover Bloomberg's piece is this one: the U.S. armed forces sells surplus weapons through a private, non-profit that promotes guns and gun safety to youth. This non-profit earns hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of leftover military firearms, some to collectors. The recent defense spending bill authorized the delivery of 18,000 M1911 pistols to the CMP over the next couple years. The premise is, the sale of the weapons cache saves the U.S. the cost of storing them. Turns out, the warehousing is less than a buck a year per pistol, much less. After refurb, the non-profit expects to sell them to the public for $850 to $1,050 per pistol. Their cost, the price of shipping the weapons. That's it. Buyers are already lining up, so if you want an M1911 this fall, you'll have lots of competition. CMP could earn $18 million from the refreshed military sidearms. That's a pretty nice non-profit. CMP is sitting on a quarter-billion in assets.

Not sure where this process is covered in the Bible, or for that matter the Constitution. But in the tug-of-war over America's gun culture, follow the money.

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