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Acquisitions and Arguments
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
With yesterday's announcement that Freedom Group has gobbled up....oops.... added ParaUSA to their growing portfolio another of the deals whispered about at SHOT Show is confirmed- and the consolidation of the firearms industry continues.

Can't say a lot beyond the releases about FGI's intentions, but a note arrived late last night Para's longtime PR/Media contact Kerby Smith. In it, Smith offered a little insight into how things are shaping up -at least from his perspective.

"The company that I worked for is no longer active," Smith wrote, "and I am no longer employed...I assume that this e-mail will be shut down soon...It has been a great pleasure working with you for PARA USA, Inc."

The Para acquisition means Freedom Group has acquired a running pistol company with proven products to plug into as many of the FGI company lines as it pleases.

Para, if allowed to continue, will have access to FGI's extensive sales, marketing, dealer, and materials supply chain. About all that remains to be seen is how FGI will bring Para into the fold-and how they'll position Para products. For now, the official line is that Para USA will continue its day-to-day operations from its relatively new headquarters in Pineville, North Carolina.

Industry consolidation is far from over. What remains to be seen is whether rolling up companies into bigger companies will do anything to reverse a growing trend of "mainstream" companies refusing to do business with anyone making, selling or advertising firearms products.

Yesterday, The Shooting Wire reported that FOX Sports told UFC (the mixed martial arts league now partnered with Fox) no more advertising from companies that make or market guns, knives or ammunition.

I don't like network television excs simply saying "no dice" to anything the network they deem politically incorrect, especially since it seems guns are right at the top of that list.


Realizing I'm starting to sound a little like the tinfoil beanie crowd, I'm becoming increasingly concerned the minute anyone starts telling me they know what's best for everyone else.

At this point ISP, Citibank, PayPal, Google and Fox don't want anything to do with the firearms industry.
OK, that's their business right. It's also our right to take our business elsewhere. I don't do business with any of these groups anymore. I happen to believe that no company in the outdoor industry should do business with them either. That's not mean-spirited, it's just good business sense- why help the people who want your industry to disappear?

But after reading a column by technology industry observer Shelly Palmer recently, I'm becoming concerned there's a concerted effort to freeze guns, ammo, and knives out of access to modern business tools.

Shelly Palmer's one of those people who believes- by his own written admission that: Technology is good." He's also one of those reasonable people who believes that "guns don't kill people, people kill people."

In other words, he realizes the tool isn't imbued with any sort of malevolent personality, but the user just might be. It's why something I was compelled to ask his permission to share a concern he raised about information collection.

You see, Palmer, a man who lives in the technology world, is alarmed at the way information is about to be collected - and then compiled- by Google.

On March 1, Google will consolidate the privacy policies of 60 of its products (if you're skeptical, you can read the Google announcement for yourself at http://www.google.com/policies/) . Palmer doesn't like the implication.

With that consolidation, Palmer wrote, Google "will create the singularly most significant database of the Information Age." It will, he continued, empower Google to "correlate and contextualize our thoughts, aspirations, actions, physical locations and the timelines for the basic processes of the doing of life."

Google already knows more about each of us than the government. But that data's not all connected - yet. But the date for beginning that connection has officially been announced.

The computational power Google already possesses, whencombined with the pace of technological development, could quickly create a database Palmer says will: "automatically determine what you are most likely going to have for dinner after your bowling league Tuesday night, where you are going to have it, who it will be with, whether you are feeling good or have a cold, if you and your wife are fighting, how your day was at work, what you are thinking about buying, who is helping you with your decisions about it, what chronic illnesses you are dealing with, what meds you are on, etc, etc, etc. "

"And," Palmer writes, "this isn't even the scary stuff."

Google, without trying, could quickly learn if you like or own firearms, their types, where you shoot, your friends (and whether they shoot or not) without abusing the privacy rules of a Form 4473. The information many of us share with friends - and without much forethought to the consequences - would become part of a database that would do much more than simply say we owned a firearm. It could potentially tell "inquiring minds" how well you could operate that firearm.

Like Palmer, I'm not particularly worried about the inherent goodness or badness of data. Data is just a collection of zeroes and ones - until someone decides how they will apply that information. And bad people will always find ways to do bad things.

The price of "unintended consequence" is why Palmer feels Google is going too- far. The headline on his story told it all: Google=Syynet...Yikes!

Yikes, indeed. The idea of a Terminator-style computer system that would identify - and potentially deal with threats to the well-being of the orderly system sounds far-fetched. But radio, television, and the internet were all once regarded as science fiction. Today, they're the pipelines that pump information and/or sewage into our homes-and we're always clamoring for bigger pipes.

Before you go disconnecting your cable, shooting your television or cutting your internet connection, let's be clear: this isn't something that will magically happen on March 1. But a man who makes his living from covering technology asking "how much information is too-much" probably means someone inside Google is already looking at the ways all that consolidated data can be parsed.

Today, tools are being created with the potential to give "big data" more influence over your life than "big government". Neither appear to be going away anytime soon.

Neither should be allowed to operate without some awareness of the possible unintended consequences of technological advances or social engineering.

Conclusion?

Not every weapon has a sharp edge or speeding projectile. But misapplication of less threatening weapons can have exact the same toll on individual freedoms as a quick stab or a supersonic bullet.

Maybe not today, but not planning for the future means constantly being surprised by it.

--Jim Shepherd

Editor's Note: You can learn more about Shelly Palmer by visiting http://www.shellypalmer.com/about/.

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