The United States has become largely a service economy and not, any longer, a manufacturing economy. Non-manufacturing’s share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is more than five times that of manufacturing. The manufacturing industries that produce weapons, however, are still thriving in the U.S.
U.S. arms sales make up most of the global market for arms sales. In December 2016 alone, the U.S. State Department approved 12 Foreign Military Sales, including the sale to Saudi Arabia of CH-47F Chinook Cargo Helicopters and related equipment, training, and support. The estimated sale price will be $3.51 billion. (Reference: Department of Defense—Defense Security Cooperation Agency http://www.dsca.mil/major-arms-sales) This is the same Saudi Arabia to which the U.S. sold 84 advanced F-15SA Boeing combat planes, at a cost to the Saudis of $30 billion dollars, in 2010. Significantly also, the U.S. sold $1.29 billion worth of bombs to the Saudis at the end of 2015.
As citizens of this country, we should be glad for these sales, right? Manufacturing jobs are good jobs–well paying jobs. But what are we manufacturing? These planes and bombs aren’t sitting in hangars, collecting dust. They are being used by Saudi Arabia’s military as it carries out air strikes in neighboring Yemen. On October 8th, 2016 the Saudi military launched an airstrike on a crowded funeral ceremony in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing 100 and injuring more than 500, according to the civilian advocacy group Human Rights Watch. At least 2,800 civilians have been killed in the conflict so far, according to the United Nations — mostly by these air strikes.
The F-15s, made by Boeing, have been implicated in the bombing of three medical facilities staffed by Doctors Without Borders (Médicins Sans Frontières). The U.N. Secretary General has decried “intense airstrikes in residential areas and on civilian buildings in Sanaa, including the chamber of commerce, a wedding hall, and a center for the blind,” and has warned that reports of cluster bombs being used in populated areas “may amount to a war crime due to their indiscriminate nature.”
Yemen is on the other side of the world. The killing of civilians in a part of the world, that is so far away, is abstract; the politics—foreign.
The manufacture and sale of weapons, to foreign nations, is not the only part of our manufacturing that is producing casualties and a body count. The production and sale of firearms in the U.S. is also a huge business. The annual revenue from the manufacturing of guns and ammunition within the U.S. is $11 billion. This includes the production of rifles, shotguns, revolvers and pistols (sources: State fish & Game Departments, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).
And, yes, guns do kill. Whether it be the 26 victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school or the murder of the five people at the Fort Lauderdale airport this month, guns, in the hands of angry, sick people, do kill. They kill in our nation; they kill in our own back yards.
According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, there were 188 homicides per year in the St. Louis Metropolitan area in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, 179 of those murders were committed with firearms; 19 of the victims were under age 20.