It was 1776, the American colonies had just declared their independence from England, and as war raged the founding fathers were deep in debate: should Americans have the right to own firearms as individuals, or just as members of local militia?
As a landmark Supreme Court decision expanded gun rights Thursday, just weeks after a mass killing of 19 children in their Texas school, the debate rages on and outsiders wonder why Americans are so wedded to the firearms used in such massacres with appalling frequency.
The answer, experts say, lies both in the traditions underpinning the country’s winning its freedom from Britain, and most recently, a growing belief among consumers that they need guns for their personal safety.
Over the past two decades — a period in which more than 200 million guns hit the US market — the country has shifted from “Gun Culture 1.0,” where guns were for sport and hunting, to “Gun Culture 2.0” where many Americans see them as essential to protect their homes and families.
That shift has been driven heavily by advertising by the nearly $20 billion gun industry that has tapped fears of crime and racial upheaval, according to Ryan Busse, a former industry executive.
Recent mass murders “are the byproduct of a gun industry business model designed to profit from increasing hatred, fear, and conspiracy,” Busse wrote in May in the online magazine The Bulwark.
Yet in the wake of the May mass shootings of Black people at a supermarket in New York state and children and teachers at their school in Uvalde, Texas, consensus emerged for US lawmakers to advance some modest new gun control measures.
Nearly simultaneously the US Supreme Court struck down Thursday a New York state law restricting who can carry a firearm, a significant expansion of gun rights.
– Guns and the new nation –
For the men designing the new United States in the 1770s and 1780s, there was no question about gun ownership.
They said the monopoly on guns by the monarchies of Europe and their armies was the very source of oppression that the American colonists were fighting.
James Madison, the “father of the constitution,” cited “the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.”
But he and the other founders understood the issue was complex. The new states did not trust the nascent federal government, and wanted their own laws, and own arms.
They recognized people needed to hunt and protect themselves against wild animals and thieves. But some worried more private guns could just increase frontier lawlessness.
Were private guns essential to protect against tyranny? Couldn’t local armed militia fulfil that role? Or would militia become a source of local oppression?
In 1791, a compromise was struck in what has become the most parsed phrase in the Constitution, the Second Amendment guaranteeing gun rights:
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
– 1960s gun control –
Over the following two centuries, guns became an essential part of American life and myth.
Gun Culture 1.0, as Wake Forest University professor David Yamane describes it, was about guns as critical tools for pioneers hunting game and fending off varmints — as well as the genocidal conquest of native Americans and the control of slaves.
But by the early 20th century, the increasingly urbanized United States was awash with firearms and experiencing notable levels of gun crime not seen in other countries.
From 1900 to 1964, wrote the late historian Richard Hofstadter, the country recorded more than 265,000 gun homicides, 330,000 suicides, and 139,000 gun accidents.
In reaction to a surge in organized crime violence, in 1934 the federal government banned machine guns and required guns to be registered and taxed.
Individual states added their own controls, like bans on carrying guns in public, openly or concealed.
The public was for such controls: pollster Gallup says that in 1959, 60 percent of Americans supported a complete ban on personal handguns.
The assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, brought a push for strenuous regulation in 1968.
But gunmakers and the increasingly assertive National Rifle Association, citing the Second Amendment, prevented new legislation from doing more than implement an easily circumvented restriction on direct mail-order gun sales.
– The holy Second Amendment –
Over the next two decades, the NRA built common cause with Republicans to insist that the Second Amendment was absolute in its protection of gun rights, and that any regulation was an attack on Americans’ “freedom.”
According to Matthew Lacombe, a Barnard College professor, achieving that involved the NRA creating and advertising a distinct gun-centric ideology and social identity for gun owners.
Gun owners banded together around that ideology, forming a powerful voting bloc, especially in rural areas that Republicans sought to seize from Democrats.
Jessica Dawson, a professor at the West Point military academy, said the NRA made common cause with the religious right, a group that believes in Christianity’s primacy in American culture and the constitution.
Drawing “on the New Christian Right’s belief in moral decay, distrust of the government, and belief in evil,” the NRA leadership “began to use more religiously coded language to elevate the Second Amendment above the restrictions of a secular government,” Dawson wrote.
– Self-defense –
Yet the shift of focus to the Second Amendment did not help gunmakers, who saw flat sales due to the steep decline by the 1990s in hunting and shooting sports.
That paved the way for Gun Culture 2.0 — when the NRA and the gun industry began telling consumers that they needed personal firearms to protect themselves, according to Busse.
Gun marketing increasingly showed people under attack from rioters and thieves, and hyped the need for personal “tactical” equipment.
The timing paralleled Barack Obama becoming the first African American president and a rise in white nationalism.
“Fifteen years ago, at the behest of the NRA, the firearms industry took a dark turn when it started marketing increasingly aggressive and militaristic guns and tactical gear,” Busse wrote.
Meanwhile, many states answered worries about a perceived rise in crime by allowing people to carry guns in public without permits.
In fact, violent crime has trended downward over the past two decades — though gun-related killings have surged in recent years.
That, said Wake Forest’s Yamane, was a key turning point for Gun Culture 2.0, giving a sharp boost to handgun sales, which people of all races bought, amid exaggerated fears of internecine violence.
Since 2009, sales have soared, topping more than 10 million a year since 2013, mainly AR-15-type assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols.
“The majority of gun owners today — especially new gun owners — point to self-defense as the primary reason for owning a gun,” Yamane wrote.
1 in 5 companies founded in 2021 closed within the year—a story all too familiar in the US
Whether a startup is successful in its first year depends on a variety of factors—from industry type and location to funding and money management strategies. PlanPros investigated what it takes for a business to make it through its first year—a milestone that 1 in 5 companies don’t achieve.
Entrepreneurship is a core tenet of American culture. As many as 55% of Americans have started at least one business in their lifetime, according to a 2019 survey by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor consortium at Babson College. In fact, there are over 33 million small businesses—which have fewer than 500 employees—in operation today according to estimates from the Small Business Administration. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that since 1994, about 20% of new businesses have not survived their first year.
The success of a small business affects more than just the business owners’ livelihood. According to the SBA Small Business Facts Report, small businesses are responsible for 2 in 3 jobs created in the past 25 years. Additionally, the SBA estimates that small businesses are responsible for about 44% of all economic activity in the United States.
According to a 2022 Skynova survey of 492 startup founders, 58% said they wished they had done more market research before starting their business. Put simply, market research involves evaluating how likely a product or service is to be received well by its intended customers.
Where a startup is based can have a significant effect on its finances. Business taxes vary across states, as does the availability of various government grant and loan programs designed to aid small businesses. Residents’ purchasing power also ranges geographically. The first-year failure rate for small businesses by state ranged from 18.2% to 36.6% in 2019, the most recent data available—California had the lowest first-year failure rate, while Washington-based startups faced the highest first-year failure rate.
Startups can face certain advantages and disadvantages depending on the nature of their industry as well. According to the Small Business Funding lending agency, small businesses in the health care industry have the highest chance of surviving to at least their fifth year at 60%. Conversely, small businesses in the transportation industry have the lowest chance of surviving through their fifth year at 30%.
Funding and well-managed cash flow
The primary reason new businesses fail is due to a lack of cash or available financial support in its absence, according to the aforementioned Skynova report. In 2022, 47% of startup failures were attributed to a lack of financing or investors, while running out of money contributed to 44% of failures in the same year. A 2019 study funded by the SBA of 1,000 startup small business owners attributes 82% of startup failures to cash flow problems and mismanagement. These data point out the importance of adhering to a strict budget and limiting expenses as much as possible in the first year.
It is also important to identify potential sources of funding or support in advance of any immediate need. This can help prevent running into unsustainable growth. Many government programs exist to help startups survive, including state and federal grants, some of which are designated for certain demographics and industries.
Even after a business is fairly well established, it is important to monitor cash flow closely. Businesses need to survive well beyond just the first year. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly half of small businesses fail within five years. After 15 years, about 3 in 4 small businesses will have failed.
But the end of a company is not necessarily the end of entrepreneurship for every small business owner. A study by University of Michigan and Stanford economists suggests that business owners who start a second business after their first failures are more likely to succeed on their second attempt.
Story editing by Jeff Inglis. Copy editing by Tim Bruns.
Consumer retail spending holds steady as recession worries drag on
Spending for in-person and online goods and services has moderated over the past year after seeing outsized growth during the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decline in sales growth has forced some retailers to roll out discounts. Others warn sales could drop further as consumers feel the squeeze of college debt payments returning this fall and still-rising prices for everything from weekly groceries to back-to-school clothing.
Retail sales data can offer broad inferences about the spending habits of consumers in the U.S. economy and can serve as an indicator of economic health. Business leaders and Federal Reserve officials watch the data closely for signs that consumers could be struggling with their finances.
The COVID-19 pandemic and job loss caused the economy to contract rapidly and enter a recession, briefly hurting retail sales. With the help of stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment payments, Americans bounced back—and bought a ton of stuff: sporting goods, electronics, furniture, and new homes. And as COVID-19 vaccines rolled out, consumers shifted to spending on previously delayed travel.
Throughout 2021, a flood of stimulus money and rapidly rising profits contributed to a red-hot economy in which prices were rising faster than at any time since the 1980s. By 2022, Federal Reserve officials began raising interest rates in an attempt to cool down rising prices. So far in 2023, growth in sales has started to slow as consumers muddle through an increasingly expensive world.
Dom DiFurio // Shopdog
Pandemic boom in the rearview as inflation erodes spending power
Census data shows retail sales growth has slowed since federal officials began taking their fight against inflation seriously last summer.
Overall inflation was still elevated at 3.2% year over year in July, stubbornly higher than the 2% goal Federal Reserve officials want to achieve. The Fed began raising its benchmark interest rates in April 2022 to make it more expensive for consumers and businesses to borrow money for things like new business, a home mortgage, or a new vehicle.
When the Fed raises its interest rates, banks follow. A monetary policy like this aims to slow down an economy flush with cash so prices grow slower. It’s a policy experts argue causes necessary pain for consumers in the short term to avoid perpetual inflation in the long term.
So far, the Fed has seen inflation cool from a modern high of 9% last year, but in late August, officials said they need to see it decrease further before they pause rate hikes.
Dom DiFurio // Shopdog
Online retail spending is up 7.5% over summer 2022
Even as overall spending flattens, Americans’ online shopping habits have reverted to pre-pandemic trends. Consumer spending has steadily shifted from retail to e-commerce since Jeff Bezos had the idea to sell books online in 1994. That steady growth got a big boost in 2020 when online shopping often became the only way to spend money.
After correcting downward as shoppers ventured out of their homes, the portion of retail sales happening online is growing again at pre-pandemic rates despite the overall challenges faced by consumers.
However, signs are emerging from retailers that the typical American may be unable to keep spending on goods and services the same way in the second half of 2023.
QualityHD // Shutterstock
Stalled spending growth is cold comfort for nervous small retailers
Retail giant Walmart is raising its profit expectation through the end of the year, reporting gains in e-commerce sales. However, their projections starkly contrast with others in the retail space that are beginning to report gloomy forecasts.
Big sportswear retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, which usually benefit from a surge in sales during back-to-school season, have cut their profit expectations for the rest of the year.
And optimism is low, according to a 2022 industry report by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which represents the interests of America’s small businesses. Most small businesses believe the country is already in a recession despite no official call by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and they expect lower sales through the end of the year.
Story editing by Ashleigh Graf. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.
This story originally appeared on Shopdog and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
The county in every state with the most new business applications
Entrepreneurship emerged in a big way over the past three years, and founders are not slowing down.
To get a more comprehensive view of where new businesses may have the most impact in coming years, PlanBuildr used Census Bureau data to find the county in each state with the most business applications per capita in 2022.
Business applications have fallen from highs in 2021 but remain well above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels at over 400,000 applications per month. There were a little under 5.1 million business applications in 2022, compared to a record-breaking 5.4 million in 2021 and 4.4 million in 2020. Through June, there have been 2.65 million applications, meaning 2023 is on pace to rival the 2021 spike.
Prior to the pandemic, entrepreneurship had been in a lull for decades. In 2018 and 2019, a typical month would see fewer than 300,000 business applications, and in prior years the levels were even lower, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows. Now, entrepreneurs aren’t letting fears of a recession stop them. In July 2023 alone, more than 469,000 people applied for employer identification numbers—the primary way the government measures small business applicants—marking a 0.5% increase from June.
Additionally, small businesses and startups continue to grow jobs, increasing overall employment despite high-profile layoffs at larger corporations. Nearly half of all workers have jobs at small firms, so continued entrepreneurship keeps the job market strong. What’s more, the pioneering spirit keeps overall economic productivity strong.
Business owners told the New York Times their experiences in the pandemic had “recession-proofed” their businesses. Now they know how to pivot and survive while financially strapped. But interest rates are up, and investors have pulled back, raising the stakes for new business owners.
Groundbreaking companies, like Uber and Airbnb, have emerged from past recessions. While consumers may be more hesitant, hiring is typically easier, and business costs are less expensive amid downturns. From offering new products to creating jobs to upholding economies, new businesses create ripples across their communities.
Read on to see which county in your state saw the most businesses set the groundwork to build their legacies. The data used on new business applications are tallied from applications for employer identification numbers from the Census Bureau. States and counties that allow business owners and operators to incorporate without residing locally may have inflated per capita numbers. Counties with fewer than 1,000 residents were excluded from the analysis.
Alabama: Mobile County
– 2022 applications: 9,792 (23.8 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 8,782 (21.3 per 1,000 residents)
Alaska: Skagway Municipality
– 2022 applications: 29 (26.8 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 10 (8.8 per 1,000 residents)
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock
Arizona: Maricopa County
– 2022 applications: 83,305 (18.3 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 83,458 (18.6 per 1,000 residents)
Arkansas: Phillips County
– 2022 applications: 328 (21.4 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 347 (21.9 per 1,000 residents)
California: Alpine County
– 2022 applications: 21 (17.6 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 23 (18.6 per 1,000 residents)
Colorado: Pitkin County
– 2022 applications: 671 (39.8 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 727 (41.9 per 1,000 residents)
Connecticut: Western Connecticut Planning Region
– 2022 applications: 11,118 (17.8 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: Not available: Prior to 2022, data were collected for Connecticut’s former counties rather than its new planning regions. (0.0 per 1,000 residents)
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock
Delaware: Kent County
– 2022 applications: 12,961 (69.3 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 11,552 (62.7 per 1,000 residents)
Florida: Miami-Dade County
– 2022 applications: 127,895 (47.8 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 136,137 (51.0 per 1,000 residents)
Brett Barnhill // Shutterstock
Georgia: Fulton County
– 2022 applications: 50,118 (46.6 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 60,986 (57.4 per 1,000 residents)
pikappa51 // Shutterstock
Hawaii: Maui County
– 2022 applications: 2,778 (16.9 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 2,935 (17.8 per 1,000 residents)
Idaho: Teton County
– 2022 applications: 298 (23.8 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 308 (25.1 per 1,000 residents)
Illinois: Cook County
– 2022 applications: 93,690 (18.3 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 118,523 (22.9 per 1,000 residents)
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock
Indiana: Marion County
– 2022 applications: 22,226 (22.9 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 25,352 (26.1 per 1,000 residents)
stivanderson // Shutterstock
Iowa: Jefferson County
– 2022 applications: 221 (14.1 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 225 (14.3 per 1,000 residents)
TommyBrison // Shutterstock
Kansas: Lane County
– 2022 applications: 45 (28.9 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 22 (14.0 per 1,000 residents)
f11photo // Shutterstock
Kentucky: Jefferson County
– 2022 applications: 12,082 (15.6 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 12,973 (16.7 per 1,000 residents)
Louisiana: Orleans Parish
– 2022 applications: 9,408 (25.4 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 12,809 (34.0 per 1,000 residents)
Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock
Maine: Cumberland County
– 2022 applications: 3,670 (11.9 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 3,803 (12.4 per 1,000 residents)
Maryland: Garrett County
– 2022 applications: 748 (26.2 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 579 (20.1 per 1,000 residents)
Massachusetts: Nantucket County
– 2022 applications: 433 (30.0 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 344 (23.7 per 1,000 residents)
Michigan: Wayne County
– 2022 applications: 39,328 (22.4 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 47,565 (26.8 per 1,000 residents)
Minnesota: Cook County
– 2022 applications: 94 (16.5 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 81 (14.4 per 1,000 residents)
Mississippi: Coahoma County
– 2022 applications: 774 (38.3 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 754 (36.4 per 1,000 residents)
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock
Missouri: St. Louis city
– 2022 applications: 6,422 (22.4 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 7,803 (26.6 per 1,000 residents)
Montana: Flathead County
– 2022 applications: 4,219 (37.7 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 3,521 (32.4 per 1,000 residents)
Nebraska: Boyd County
– 2022 applications: 33 (19.0 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 18 (10.1 per 1,000 residents)
randy andy // Shutterstock
Nevada: Clark County
– 2022 applications: 49,369 (21.3 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 55,475 (24.2 per 1,000 residents)
Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock
New Hampshire: Rockingham County
– 2022 applications: 3,582 (11.2 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 3,559 (11.2 per 1,000 residents)
Mihai_Andritoiu // Shutterstock
New Jersey: Essex County
– 2022 applications: 18,114 (21.3 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 21,329 (25.0 per 1,000 residents)
Jimack // Shutterstock
New Mexico: Santa Fe County
– 2022 applications: 4,338 (27.9 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 3,683 (23.7 per 1,000 residents)
pisaphotography // Shutterstock
New York: New York County
– 2022 applications: 50,149 (31.4 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 53,217 (33.7 per 1,000 residents)
digidreamgrafix // Shutterstock
North Carolina: Mecklenburg County
– 2022 applications: 29,600 (25.8 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 34,052 (30.2 per 1,000 residents)
Traveller70 // Shutterstock
North Dakota: Dunn County
– 2022 applications: 88 (21.9 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 62 (15.4 per 1,000 residents)
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock
Ohio: Franklin County
– 2022 applications: 24,370 (18.4 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 26,733 (20.3 per 1,000 residents)
Oklahoma: Oklahoma County
– 2022 applications: 14,955 (18.6 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 16,158 (20.2 per 1,000 residents)
Oregon: Hood River County
– 2022 applications: 409 (17.0 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 352 (14.6 per 1,000 residents)
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia County
– 2022 applications: 29,166 (18.6 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 42,298 (26.6 per 1,000 residents)
Rhode Island: Providence County
– 2022 applications: 7,055 (10.7 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 7,450 (11.3 per 1,000 residents)
South Carolina: Charleston County
– 2022 applications: 10,138 (24.2 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 10,561 (25.5 per 1,000 residents)
South Dakota: Haakon County
– 2022 applications: 37 (20.3 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 19 (10.4 per 1,000 residents)
Tennessee: Davidson County
– 2022 applications: 15,302 (21.6 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 15,871 (22.6 per 1,000 residents)
Texas: Glasscock County
– 2022 applications: 30 (25.8 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 13 (11.4 per 1,000 residents)
Utah: Summit County
– 2022 applications: 1,291 (30.0 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 1,457 (33.8 per 1,000 residents)
Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock
Vermont: Lamoille County
– 2022 applications: 374 (14.3 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 322 (12.3 per 1,000 residents)
OJUP // Shutterstock
Virginia: Petersburg city
– 2022 applications: 797 (23.9 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 1,017 (30.5 per 1,000 residents)
Washington: San Juan County
– 2022 applications: 273 (14.6 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 356 (19.1 per 1,000 residents)
West Virginia: Jefferson County
– 2022 applications: 646 (11.0 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 569 (9.7 per 1,000 residents)
Wisconsin: Milwaukee County
– 2022 applications: 18,019 (19.6 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 19,542 (21.1 per 1,000 residents)
Ems Images // Shutterstock
Wyoming: Sheridan County
– 2022 applications: 22,389 (697.6 per 1,000 residents)
– 2021 applications: 17,043 (538.2 per 1,000 residents)
Data reporting by Paxtyn Merten. Story editing by Jeff Inglis. Copy editing by Paris Close.
This story originally appeared on PlanBuildr and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
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