The similarity between the military weapons used on battlefields and the civilian guns used on our streets is already frightening—but it’s about to get worse. In the coming months, the United States’ military will select a new, standard handgun for its troops, employing a gun manufacturer to develop a more powerful and effective weapon than the one currently in use. The weapon will be designed for military operations abroad, but its selection will likely have a significant impact on the commercial gun market here at home.
Matt Valentine examines the military’s previous influence on domestic firearms sales in an article published on the Atlantic’s website earlier today. He explains that the military’s decision, in 1985, to adopt the semi-automatic Beretta M9 as its standard weapon had a seismic impact on gun ownership in America. “Prior to 1980, semiautomatic pistols represented less than a third of handguns produced in the U.S,” Valentine writes. “By 1991, 74 percent of all handguns produced in America were semiautomatics.”
The prevalence of semiautomatic weapons yielded tragic consequences: the annual gun deaths peaked in 1993, the percentage of gun victims with multiple bullet wounds nearly doubled by 1989, and semiautomatic handguns became the weapon of choice for mass shootings such as Virginia Tech and Fort Hood.
Now, the military claims that the Beretta M9—despite its demonstrated effectiveness in the United States—is outdated and must be replaced. According to Valentine, the upgrade will be a more powerful weapon, but will likely lack the cutting-edge, “smart-gun” technology that would make the weapon far safer.
The military views these safety measures as unnecessary because it designs guns for highly trained soldiers, not civilians whose weapons might fall into the hands of children. But regardless of the intended use, we know that these firearms will end up in the commercial market and, consequently, in our communities. So expect a brand new, more potent and dangerous gun to sweep our nation—just as soon as our military picks one.