On “Gouging” And The Gun Market

Lately, I’ve grown increasingly annoyed by a particularly shrill subset of gun owners.  Specifically, the people who look at the prices we see during gun panics (i.e. “they’re going to ban guns, oh no!”) and loudly denounce people with prices they don’t want to pay, as “gougers”.

In the interests of fair disclosure, I’m a cheapskate.  I never pay retail, and usually I pay dealer price or under.  I make a point of learning from history as I go, and I’ve been buying firearms since 2001 or so.

I’m not going to claim that I live the life of a Spartan, but I do drive an SUV from ’96, I live in a smaller house than I could afford, and I don’t take vacations.  As a direct result of my not wasting money, I own a collection of modern rifles, handguns, body armor, night vision goggles, plenty of ammunition, and the gear to reload more of it.  If one wishes to play the “every man has a responsibility to be ready to serve in a militia” card, I’ve taken care of that need and am now free to blow my money on frivolity if I so desire.

However, among those complaining about the current prices, there are many who castigate everyone selling at current market price, and insist that the sellers have some moral responsibility to sell their items at cost.  After all, if the seller doesn’t lower the price, the buyer will have to pay more than he wants to!  OH NOES!

The following points do not apply to you if you aren’t complaining about the prices.  Some folks just shrug and say, “Man, I should’ve acted sooner.”  If that’s your reaction, you ‘get it’.  You’re not who I’m talking to.  But if you’re whining about how the prices are interfering with your Second Amendment duties… I probably am talking about you.

Now, if you’re 21 or younger and just now trying to exercise your second amendment duties, then I really do feel really sorry for you.  If you’re up to 25 and you’d been previously prevented because you lived at college, or lived with anti-gun parents, or otherwise were prevented from buying your gear, I still feel sorry for you.

But you get zero sympathy from me if you’re over 25 and are complaining about prices, yet you’ve spent money on drinking, video games, a fancy car, tattoos, or anything other than bare subsistence.  If it weren’t for the very panic which drives everyone else to buy a gun at the same time, you wouldn’t be trying to buy one either.  And, you score insufferable loser points if you were able to cough up the money for a “Molon Labe” tattoo but didn’t bother to square away your citizen militia responsibilities first.

If you’re in that whiner category, and think you “deserve” low prices so you can “defend freedom”, yet vilify profiteering when when you insist that everyone must sell their guns at cost, you’re an inconsistent hypocrite.  Freedom doesn’t only mean “you are free to do what I want”.

Here are some reasons why you should, like me, glance at inflated price tags on guns which you would actually like to buy, but simply pass without whining about it:

  • You slept.  You lost.  Your fault.  30rd AR mags have been cheap ever since 2004.  It’s been 9 years now since then, and there is literally no excuse for people in a non-ban state not to have stocked up by now.  During all those years, did you ever spend $60 on a video game?  Congratulations, great champion of the second amendment, you chose a couple days or weeks of entertainment over 3-5 magazines at old prices.  Did you buy dinner at a restaurant?  Every time you ate $15 in food, you literally ate a magazine.
  • Stupid should hurt.  If it doesn’t hurt, you won’t learn.  I didn’t buy an AR-15 when I moved back to California, because I didn’t read the law for myself.  The shop I talked to believed the letter of the law, which was that you’d still be able to buy assault weapons as long as you filled out additional permits.  But they were may-issue, and California simply said, “Nope, we’re not issuing them.”  My fault for failing to recognize that possibility.  Had I managed to get an AR then, I probably wouldn’t have bought 15 or so receivers once they became available again.  Look at this as your year 2000, and don’t waste your money once the prices go down again.
  • No one makes you buy this stuff.  If something is too expensive, then don’t buy it.  If no one buys it, either the “gouger” will lower his price or maybe he’s not too worked up about selling it in the first place.

Let me sum up the arguments of the other side:

  • It’s gouging!  Nope, by definition it isn’t.  Price Gouging (go ahead and click the link, I’ll wait) is when there is no alternative retailer available and you price above the market price.  The only gas station in town, for instance, demanding $10/gallon, would be gouging.  I can ask a million dollars for an AR-15, and I am neither extorting nor extracting it from you.  Go buy it from someone else.  Does no one else have it?  No one in the entire country will undercut me by offering you an AR-15 for $500,000?  If so, then I am price gouging.  The “current market price” is variable, and right now it’s more than you want to pay.  Not more than you have to pay, because you can choose not to buy right now.
  • Waaa, my lack of planning is everyone else’s fault!  Before the Newtown Massacre, what did you spend your money on?  How seriously did you take the Second Amendment and your dedication to your country’s defense before they started trying to take away your guns?  What did you spend your money on?  Do own a motorcycle you don’t use for daily commuting?  A fancy gaming computer?  A video game collection?  Purses?  A Starbucks habit?  As I mentioned above, if you’re 25 or older, and claim a patriotic right to complain about the prices, you are the un-American scum who’s been keeping yourself from a proper militia weapon.  Barring pre-existing legal prohibition, the only reason you don’t already own an AR-15, AK-47, adequate ammunition, or whatever, is because you already spent that money on crap you didn’t need, and you have only yourself to blame for it.  If you truly count yourself as this great patriot, with the fires of freedom burning in your eyes, then all this other crap should have meant nothing to you if you didn’t have your basic Militia Gear Of Freedom.  You have two choices: Go pawn it all and buy the guns you should’ve bought years ago, or quit whining and wait for the prices to drop.
  • Gougers care about money, and not the Second Amendment.  When/if “Red Dawn” happens, or the UN shows up to invade our country, I’ll field a fully equipped platoon from my own arsenal and not charge people a penny for the weapons and ammo.  Until that point, if someone thinks they’re going to get one of my guns, it won’t be cheap.  Why?  Because your irresponsibility funds my ascension to the next level of gear.  I spent $600 for that AR-15, and you get to buy it for $1500.  Great, now I wear ANVIS-9 NVG’s if the battle ever is joined.  Buy a couple of them and maybe I’ll have a FLIR scope.  I have already demonstrated better dedication to the militia than you have, so the money is more patriotically spent in my hands.

PS – By the way, you can still get certain curio+relic guns pretty readily, without a lot of inflation.  You don’t have to have that $2000 AR.  You could in fact just talk your local C&R license holder into ordering three Chinese Type 53 Mosins from Century Arms.  He’ll probably take the best one out of the group for his own collection, but you’ll get one or two for $90 apiece or so (this month, at least).  It may not be the sexy tactical high-speed low-drag weapon you see in the movies, but a 7.62x54r rifle in the hands of someone who’s practiced with it is worth any number of guys who pride themselves on all-Magpul furniture and only practice by playing Call of Duty.  Seriously, the tribesmen in Afghanistan were a lot less dangerous before they started pulling out their old Enfields in 303 British and learning how to aim.  I’m not a Mosin be-all end-all fanboy (they do exist, and are more annoying than AR fanboys if you can believe it!), but if you have a sincere desire for a rifle you could actually use in a legitimate 2A capacity, the Mosin is a far better choice than, say, a 22LR shaped like an AR-15.

  1. Michael W said:

    Love it, spot on and yeah, you get it. Cracks me up when people think their freedom overrides my freedom. Don’t work that way and thank you for putting it so well and direct.

  2. m16gunner said:

    I was agreeing with you, but you went soft in the middle.

    “Price Gouging is when there is no alternative retailer available and you price above the market price. – I can ask a million dollars for an AR-15, … – Does no one else have it? No one in the entire country…? …then I am price gouging.”

    If you are the only available supply, then there IS NO MARKET, and therefore, get to set the price. A ‘Market’ only exists if there is competition. No competition, no market. Don’t like the price? Don’t buy it or come up with an alternative and create competition and with it, a market. The very word ‘gouging’ in reference to pricing of items, is a grasp at ‘fairness’ and rubs me the wrong way.

    Even your analogy of the gas station doesn’t sit well with me. You don’t want to buy gas at $10/gal? Drive to the next town to fill your car and a few extra tanks while you’re at it. Don’t like that arrangement either? Move somewhere gas is cheaper. Don’t want to do that either? THEN PAY THE $10/GAL AND STOP COMPLAINING! You had choices and you chose not to exercise them.

    You want to be hard and tell people to stop whining about prices? Then do it right. All decisions are binary. You weigh the good consequences against the bad and you make a decision. Do it or don’t. Buy it or don’t. Do whatever it takes to get what you want / need, or don’t.

    “But what about things like life saving medicines?” Well, you better hope that if there’s only one provider, that they feel the moral pull to price their medicines so that it’s affordable. But recognize they don’t HAVE to and be gracious enough to thank them when they do.

    • Actually, the point was defining gouging. My point in the article is that what people are calling gouging, isn’t.

      I wasn’t saying people couldn’t engage in gouging, only that there’s no moral case to be made against people who aren’t actually gouging at all.

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