The FT notes that Freedom Group, owner of Bushmaster, has estimated that while "total sales of long guns to U.S. consumers rose at an annual rate of just 3 percent during 2007-2011, modern sporting rifles grew at an annual rate of 27 percent." Last year, sporting rifle sales doubled.
The number of rifles like the AR-15 in private hands has probably tripled since the assault weapons ban expired. The NRA's David Keene estimates the number now at above 3 million.
Who owns these weapons?
Half are owned by veterans and cops. Writes Keene: "Nearly 90 percent of those who own an AR-15 use it for recreational target shooting; 51 percent of AR owners are members of shooting clubs and visit the range regularly; the typical AR owner is not a crazed teenage psychopath, but a 35-plus-year-old, married and has some college education."
These figures suggest that a successful effort to restrict the sale and transfer of "assault rifles" will, as did the Volstead Act and Prohibition, drive the market underground, create lawbreakers out of folks who are law-abiding and send the AR-15 price further skyward.
Many gun controllers not only do not understand what motivates those who disagree with them, they do not like them, reflexively calling them gun nuts, a reaction as foolish as it is arrogant and bigoted.
For given the loosening of gun laws at the state level in recent years, the gun controllers no longer have the numbers to impose their will on the folks who have a love for, or feel a need for, guns.
To most Americans, an armed guard in a school is a good idea in our too-violent nation. Most Americans realize that when shooting breaks out in a gun-free zone -- a school, movie theater, mall -- the first call goes to 911 to get cops with Glocks and a SWAT team with black rifles there as soon as possible.
Most folks understand why air marshals on planes might have to be armed. Most folks know that the people running up the death toll in murder capitals like Chicago are not using AR-15s. And many Americans yet accept that in the last analysis it is a man's duty to be the defender and protector of his wife and children.
Human nature will ultimately triumph over ideology.