Author's Note: I published the following article at the end of 2013, right around the one year commemoration of the Sandy Hook massacre in which Adam Lanza used an AR-15 assault rifle to kill 26 people -- 20 children and six teachers -- in cold blood. Elsewhere, AR-15 style rifles were used at San Bernardino and Aurora. Steve Stockman, meanwhile, attempted to run for Senate and lost. He's no longer a member of Congress.
In the aftermath of 9/11, imagine if various American Muslim organizations held contests in which the grand prizes were box cutters, the tool-turned-weapon used by terrorist hijackers aboard those four doomed flights. Now imagine if a U.S. congressman held not one but two separate contests like that. The condemnations would be swift and loud.
Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, gun clubs, firearms retailers, gun rights organizations and even a sitting U.S. congressman have all held multiple contests in which the AR-15, Adam Lanza's weapon of choice, was the prize.
In fact, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) conducted two AR-15 giveaways. Not only did Stockman deliberately choose the AR-15 due to its high profile during the post-Sandy Hook gun control debate, but he chose the exact same AR-15 manufacturer, Bushmaster, as the Lanza weapon. The ghoulishness is breathtaking, especially given the sheer number of other available firearms that have little or no association with the most gruesome day on American soil since 9/11, not to mention the numerous other manufacturers of the AR-15. But Stockman chose that one. The Bushmaster AR-15. And, due exclusively to gerrymandering, this heartless troll [used to have] a vote in Congress.
Worse yet, roughly 100,000 people entered his contest.
On the day of the second of two drawings, Stockman said, "An AR-15 muzzle flash is the new torch of liberty." An AR-15 muzzle flash was also the last thing 20 children and six school teachers would ever see. But sure, torch of liberty, etc.
Meanwhile, AR-15 sales spiked to record levels as gun enthusiasts lined up to buy AR-15s in the months following Sandy Hook. Sure, it was a popular firearm before the massacre, but as new gun control measures were debated earlier this year in response to Sandy Hook, gun dealers were barely able to keep the rifle and its ammunition in stock.
Back in April the president of Stag Arms, a Connecticut gun manufacturer that produces AR-15s, told CNBC, "[It's] been a very, very busy year for us. Right now we're at about a year's back order, 70,000 rifles at this point."
70,000 from one manufacturer. Think about that.
A Charlotte, NC gun shop owner continued, "The AR-15 now is probably the number one economic engine in the gun industry."
Every year, 25 percent of all firearm sales in the U.S. are AR-15s -- $1 billion of a $4 billion industry. Four million AR-15s are in circulation today. And it's a foregone conclusion that the year with the highest annual sales of AR-15s will be 2013.
Back in September another gun-maker, Slide Fire, released a modified AR-15 that can reportedly act as a fully automatic rifle using belt-fed rounds -- and a loophole in the law makes it perfectly legal. The company's marketing manager said, "It sprays like a fire hose."
Given America's thriving gun culture it'd be naive to think that firearm sales in general would decline after a gut-wrenching tragedy like Sandy Hook. However, following the slaughter of 20 children by a madman brandishing an AR-15, you'd think fewer Americans would want to be associated with it -- not more, and by the tens of thousands.
But the fact that AR-15 sales (and giveaways) actually generated record profits following its use in mass-shootings at both Sandy Hook and Aurora underscores the shameless, soulless character of our gun culture, including those who fuel it.