The Army’s New Handgun: A Weapon for Criminals?
Policy + Politics

The Army’s New Handgun: A Weapon for Criminals?

There’s a new semi-automatic handgun on the horizon for the Army that U.S. consumers may have access to almost immediately. When that happens, America’s emergency rooms better be prepared for the carnage that’s likely to follow.    

Today, during a so-called “industry day,” the U.S. Army is briefing arms manufacturers on its requirements for a new handgun, The Atlantic reported yesterday. “Several gun makers will compete for the lucrative contract.”

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The goal is to develop something far more advanced and powerful than the Cold-War era Beretta M9, which the Army has been using for nearly three decades. Since the Army is “the lead agent for small arms,” whatever weapon is produced would also have to meet “the needs of the other services,” reports

“Advancements in firearms have taken place since the M9 was adopted nearly 30 years ago, and it is our intent to take advantage of these advancements,” a military spokesperson told on Friday. “The Army is seeking to replace the M9 and M11 pistols with a handgun that is more accurate, ergonomic, reliable and durable than the current pistol.”

At issue, though, is that “the last time the military challenged the industry to make a better handgun, all the innovations intended for the battlefield also ended up in the consumer market, and the severity of civilian shootings soared,” writes Matt Valentine in The Atlantic. He explains:

Studying gunshot injuries in the D.C. area in the 1980s, Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University noticed an alarming trend – as time went on, more and more patients were arriving at the emergency room with multiple bullet wounds. In 1983, at the beginning of the study period, only about a quarter of gunshot patients had multiple injuries, but in the last two years of the study, that proportion had risen to 43 percent.

Over the same period, semiautomatic pistols with a capacity of 15-rounds (or more) were replacing six-shot revolvers as the most popular firearms in the country. It’s not difficult to see the correlation – more bullets in the guns, more bullets in the victims.

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Right now, “the consumer market for guns is slowing down after years of rapid growth,” Maksim Soshkin, a defense industry analyst with IBISWorld, told The Fiscal Times. In recent years, “fears over more stringent gun regulations caused many consumers to go out and purchase guns, which they thought would be banned. Between 2008 and 2013, the FBI’s NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] for gun purchases increased at an annualized 10.7 percent.”

As the dust settled and consumers realized “no nationwide regulation would be passed anytime soon, demand has begun to fall off,” said Soshkin. In the first half of this year, NICS checks decreased 5.2 percent as compared to the same time period in 2013, he said.

“A lot of the recent rise in gun sales can be attributed to gun enthusiasts – many of whom actually own multiple firearms – with overall gun ownership actually dropping.”

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