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Years ago, Springfield Armory and Rock River Arms formed a lobby group, known as the Illinois Firearms Manufacturers Association (IFMA). A few weeks ago, the gun manufacturing companies disbanded the lobbying organization after a gun licensing scheme came to light.

Illinois Senate Bill 1657 would require a state license for all gun dealers for the prairie state. IFMA was initially opposed to the legislation but their lobbyist, Jay Keller, made a backroom deal. IFMA would no longer be opposed to the legislation if gun manufacturers were removed from the requirement.

The original version of the bill did not exempt firearms manufacturers. IFMA became neutral on the bill once Senator Don Harmon amended the bill to exempt gun manufacturers.

SB1657 initially left committee and went to the floor for a vote, where it passed by one vote.

“The legislative process is a fluid process. The bill has only moved through one chamber, and it is still in the process. We fully support the Second Amendment and stand by it. The Illinois Manufacturers Association will continue to fight and protect not only manufacturers but dealers and the gun owner as well,” Springfield Armory CEO Dennis Reese said in a statement.

Word of the backroom deal has spread throughout the Second Amendment community. People are boycotting Springfield Armory and Rock River Arms.

The most interesting aspect of this whole saga? Both companies are taking two very different approaches to how they’re handling this public relations crisis.

Instead of admitting the fault and taking responsibility, Rock River Arms General Manager Sarah Larson went on the attack.

From The Gun Writer:

“This boils down to a small, so-called gun-rights activist website [The Truth About Guns] that took the majority of things out of context, to make it sound like Rock River Arms and Springfield Armory were IFMA,” she said. “We did not have control over all actions. IFMA acted autonomously on our behalf.”

Yet both gun manufacturers provided all of the funding for the lobbying group? I highly doubt they had any say in what happened.

“Now, we are all working against one another,” Larson said. “How can one call themselves a Second Amendment activist when all they do is take things out of context, present half-truths and, seemingly and purposefully, create conflict within the firearms community.”

Ms. Larson should probably brush up on her gun industry knowledge if she’s going after bloggers for keeping gun owners up-to-date on gun control legislation, especially when people and companies who are supposedly on our side go against us. Just saying.

Springfield Armory, on the hand, decided to have their CEO talk about the history of their company and their experience defending the Second Amendment. It was a great public relations move and it pulled at the heart strings.

Take a look for yourself:

Conclusion:

Some major damage has been done to both companies. As a publicist, I think Springfield Armory took the more honest, forthright approach by admitting they put their trust in the wrong person. They’re owning up to their mistake but reminding their customers – and the gun community – that they’ve long been involved in the fight to protect the Second Amendment.

What’s your take?

UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that last year, a bill was defeated in the Illinois House of Representatives. The bill had the exact same language as this years. And yes, the manufacturers’ exemption was in place in both bills.

From the debate transcript:

Rep. Willis: “This Amendment put in a lot of work. The reason it is #6 is because we made sure that we took everybody’s considerations into language. I’d be happy to go over, briefly, what those changes were, if you’ll bear with me a second while I pull that up. Okay. So… we took in… making sure we added additional exemptions, we put in the manufacturers of firearms are exempt, and that is, in fact, one of the reasons we had so many making sure that we listen to their language and put their language in there directly.”

Before I knew this information I thought Springfield Armory and Rock River Arms had the unfortunate mistake of a lobbyist making backroom deals on their behalf. Unfortunately, gun owners have a right to be upset. These two manufacturers sold out law-abiding gun owners by going “neutral” once they received their exemption.