At this point, the media ritual of mass shootings has clearly defined stages. We perform the process of confusion, grief, anger, inaction and apathy like they’re parts of a play. There’s one part of the ritual that most don’t notice — after mass shootings, gun sales go up and gun stocks rise. For gun manufacturing companies like Smith & Wesson or Ruger, there’s no advertisement more effective than dead first-graders, dead concert-goers or dead highschool students. With a system like that, what incentive do these companies have to behave responsibly? With full protection from a government that chooses to capitulate to them and with backing from a recent conservative Supreme Court ruling, why would gun manufacturers change anything about the status quo?

Even though gun ownership is a constitutional right, it cannot be exploited to subsidize the reckless profits of gun manufacturers. This unholy alliance of profit-driven corporations and a complicit government must end. If private gun ownership must be protected by the government, then we must also nationalize our gun industry.

Nationalization is the takeover of private industry and its assets by the federal government. Industries are nationalized during national emergencies or when an industry acts against public good. For example, Iceland nationalized its banks after their reckless pursuit of enrichment caused the country’s economy to crash in 2008. Nationalization may seem like a disruptive move, but the recklessness of our status quo necessitates it. Although 96 Americans are killed by gun violence every day, gun companies bribe politicians and flood the media with a relentless flume of inflammatory propaganda. Gun manufacturers have therefore displayed both a tremendous amount of influence and a vested interest in sabotaging the well-being of the American people. 

Liberal solutions to gun control involve restricting gun sales, while conservatives are hell-bent on making sure everyone is able to buy a gun. Regulations regarding gun sales are very clearly needed. However, these regulations will be rendered toothless as long as profit-driven gun manufacturers maintain their stranglehold on our democracy through the National Rifle Association (NRA), who in 2016 alone donated a record $54 million to Republican political efforts. To kill the snake, you must first cut off its head.

Let’s say Joe Average wants to buy a gun. We can talk about whether Joe should have a gun, or what kind of gun he gets or how long it takes him to buy it. What we don’t talk about is why Joe wants the gun in the first place. Chances are it has little to nothing to do with logic; violent crime has been on the decline for decades and the government isn’t deploying the gun-grabbing squads anytime soon. Buying a gun is an emotional decision, and these emotions are engineered by propagandists looking to sell as many guns as possible no matter the cost.

After all, there is no factual basis to the claim that guns make you safer, armed guards don’t prevent mass shootings and the mentally ill are not the cause of gun violence. You can debunk these claims with 15 minutes and an internet connection. Yet these assertions are uncritically accepted by a system that has capitulated to the power of gun manufacturers. Worse, these falsehoods are supported by a media ecosystem that is in step with these same bad actors. Fox News regularly gives NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch an uncritical platform to spout the organization's abhorrent views. 

However, if the gun industry was nationalized, the forces that have a vested monetary interest in perpetuating misinformation and propaganda would no longer be a part of the equation. Without a private industry, there’s nobody to hire corrupting lobbyists. Owning a gun would be treated like owning any other kind of dangerous equipment. Without its powerful proponents, America’s uniquely toxic culture of gun worship would disappear.

Nationalization has a limited history in the U.S. During both world wars, manufacturing industries were temporarily seized for the war effort. Given the American aversion to anything resembling socialism, there isn’t much recent precedent for this. But drastic problems require drastic solutions. When equilibrium of our democracy has become so warped that our representatives don’t actually represent us, we cannot hide behind half-measures. While recent efforts to push back on the NRA through boycotts and public pressure are admirable, we need a lot more firepower to finish the organization off for good. We must call on the state to exercise its power and defend its citizens.

The second amendment — in its current interpretation — gives individuals the right to bear arms. Barring a constitutional amendment is not in our political reality. But there’s nothing in the constitution allowing the unchecked influence of corporations who profit from the death and misery of children. Our government must obtain the assets of gun manufacturers, dissolve the NRA and allow its people to heal from toxic gun culture. Only then will the U.S. join the rest of the developed world, free from the scourge of gun violence.