Name Changed, But Not The Mission

With this issue of Shooting Industry, this column’s title is changed from “Lethal Force” to “Personal Defense Market.” There are good reasons why.

I began writing this column in 1991. At the time, gun dealers had mentioned to the then-editor that many customers asked for advice about when it was and wasn’t legal — or wise — to use a firearm in self-defense.

The resulting series on judicious use of lethal force was well received by readers. I was invited to continue writing about related matters as they pertained to the products dealers sell. The title of the original, limited series, “Lethal Force,” remained.

Recently, the present editor, Russ Thurman, felt it was time to change the title, and I agreed. Over the years, this corner of Shooting Industry has discussed many topics outside the realm of the use of lethal force — with the objective of helping dealers as they address the important personal defense market.

Evolving Perspectives

When I was young — and, yes, that was a long time ago — the average gun shop catered more to the hunter. The casual sport shooter — the term then was “plinker” — probably accounted for the second tier in the retail purchaser category. The defensive shooter was a close third, followed by the competitive shooter. The latter would buy a lot of guns and ammo, but would not be the demographic that described the typical customer, unless the shop specialized in target shooters’ needs.

Over the years, that has changed. The family who is going to satisfy its firearms needs with a .22 rifle that will be fired at tin cans will probably buy it cheap at Wal-Mart. Purchases of hunting licenses, while increasing, aren’t nearly what they were 50 years ago. The same media that demonized the gun has also tried to treat the great tradition of hunting like a dangerous moral defect equivalent to drunk driving, and made the firearms field sports seem politically incorrect to a huge percentage of today’s American population.

Moreover, there have been ebbs and flows in the economy that have brought this country to a bad place. The general current perception is the nation is in a severe recession, at best, and an outright depression, at worst. In my 60-some years on this planet, I’ve never personally known as many people who are out of work — sometimes long term — or who’ve had to downsize their homes or have had their mortgages foreclosed.

When retirements have to be postponed, when vacations turn to something for which we have to coin the term “stay-cations,” and belts have to be tightened all around, the American public responds to its situation of lower individual purchasing power by cutting out wants, thereby ensuring there will be enough money for needs.

Many categories of shooting can be classified as wants, which can be postponed. Personal defense, however, is one of the non-negotiable needs, which must be met.

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