The Firearm Industry Is Finding Solutions While Others Point Fingers | Opinion

A coalition of mayors recently gathered to discuss violent crime prevention in their cities. Only 10 of America's many mayors chair this group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), which is part of Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety gun control group. At their latest summit, the coalition ratified its position that the firearm and ammunition industry is unwilling to take steps to reduce gun violence.

The problem is that MAIG's position simply is not grounded in reality.

Efforts to paint the firearm industry as irresponsible are part of well-established narratives that dominate certain political ecosystems and the punditry of select cable news channels. There is no doubt that cities across the nation, like Kansas City, Mo., experience persistent violent crime. But fervent claims that the American businesses manufacturing firearms directly cause gun violence are based on rhetoric, not reality.

To point fingers at the firearm industry is an abdication of responsibility on the part of these mayors. Fundamentally, it is a waste of essential time and resources that could and should be channeled into effective crime reduction strategies. More broadly, this line of attack fails to recognize that manufacturers and retailers have engaged in meaningful programs to reduce the criminal and negligent misuse of firearms for many years.

NSSF, the firearm industry trade association, is committed to implementing RealSolutions, an umbrella program "to promote responsible actions among legal gun owners, to help prevent accidents, and to help keep guns out of the wrong hands." One such campaign is the NSSF-piloted Project ChildSafe, which partners with 15,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and five U.S. territories. Many of the MAIG chairmen and women love to boast that their administrations work closely with local and federal law enforcement to reduce crimes with firearms—which is exactly what NSSF has done across the country for more than 20 years.

Project ChildSafe has distributed over 40 million gun safety kits, including locking devices, over the last two decades. In part due to NSSF's efforts on this landmark safety program, fatal firearm accidents declined by 38 percent from 2005 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And for decades, manufacturers have been voluntarily providing a free locking device with each new firearm that leaves their factory.

In addition to Project ChildSafe, NSSF helps the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) educate retailers to be better able to detect "straw purchases" (Don't Lie for the Other Guy), deters and prevents firearm theft from store locations (Operation Secure Store), and partners with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to save lives every day.

A customer fills out a background check
A customer fills out a background check form at Davidson Defense in Orem, Utah, on Feb. 4, 2021. GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images

Moreover, NSSF spearheaded the legislative campaign to improve the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which culminated with the Fix NICS Act of 2017, which was named after NSSF's state-focused FixNICS campaign.

The legislation strengthened the background check system for firearm purchases by requiring federal agencies to report all disqualifying records to the ATF, and encouraging states to do the same. NSSF worked with elected officials at the federal and state levels to ensure that jurisdictions submitted information that would prevent prohibited individuals from purchasing a firearm.

As of December 2020, records submitted to NICS increased by 270 percent, to about 6.14 million from about 1.7 million as of December 2012.

Interestingly, MAIG's arguments, and the arguments of almost every gun control group, omit NSSF's multi-decade regulatory, legislative, and community-based advocacy efforts. These groups ignore this work even as NSSF partners with police in many of these mayors' cities to prevent the criminal misuse of firearms.

Such groups also remain united in their advocacy for a full ban on firearms. This implicit call to action urging for a limitless gun ban is a clear attack on the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding American citizens. These proposals are blatantly unconstitutional, and they do not prevent violent criminals from illegally obtaining firearms. According to a 2016 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, criminals convicted of using a firearm during their crime obtained it through illicit means 90 percent of the time. That's through theft or the black market—not from lawful firearm retailers.

That's a startling statistic. But what purpose would additional laws serve if we cannot enforce the laws already on the books, while most criminals obtain firearms through illegal sources? Criminals would pay them no mind and continue to commit crimes using firearms acquired through methods that are, have been, and continue to be totally illegal.

America's mayors have a responsibility to refrain from biased, fact free rhetoric about the industry and not try to offload blame for gun violence in America. By painting our lawful, heavily regulated industry as the enemy, organizations like MAIG are missing an opportunity to engage with us in meaningful and substantive action to protect Americans and our Second Amendment rights.

Lawrence G. Keane is the senior vice president and general counsel for NSSF, The Firearm Industry Trade Association.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.