Firearms industry trade group head calls for "sincere, thoughtful, and focused action" after Uvalde

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

You won’t find any mention of support for new gun control laws in Joe Bartozzi’s column on the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s response to the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, though the NSSF CEO and president says he’s “gladly willing” to work with stakeholders on “sincere, thoughtful, and focused action to prevent future tragedies,” declaring that anything less would be a “failure.”

Bartozzi added that the NSSF and its members “have been willing, and continue to be willing, to sit at the table with anyone offering constructive ideas that also respect the rights of law-abiding citizens,” while laying out several of the industry-led initiatives to reduce criminal misuse of firearms.

NSSF championed the FixNICS campaign to ensure the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System works the way it is intended. We worked to change the law in 16 states to ensure all disqualifying mental health records are submitted to the FBI. Since 2013, disqualifying mental health record submission improved by 270 percent, from just 1.4 million records in 2012, to more than 6.14 million today. NSSF worked across the political spectrum to get the FIX NICS Act in Congress signed into law. That legislation was led by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). It was cosponsored by 78 senators, demonstrating the benefit that can come of a true cooperative effort focused on real solutions.

NSSF knows this takes partners. That’s why the firearm industry partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to keep guns out of the hands of those who can’t be trusted to possess them. NSSF works with ATF on the Don’t Lie for the Other Guy campaign to educate the public that attempting to buy a firearm for someone who can’t or doesn’t want to be associated with the firearm sale carries a 10-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. That program also educates firearm retailers to recognize the signs of a potential straw purchase so they can stop it in its tracks. NSSF has been doing this for more than 20 years.

NSSF also partners with ATF for Operations Secure Store, a campaign to improve security at firearm retail locations to deter and prevent burglaries and robberies. Criminals stealing guns is a threat to all our communities, which is why when it does occur, NSSF matches ATF reward offers up to $5,000 for information leading to the recovery of those stolen firearms and conviction of those criminals. The ATF’s own data shows that this program is drastically reducing instances of these crimes.

Bartozzi went on to say that “conversations about what must be improved need to happen, including steps to provide greater mental health resources and better secure our schools,” and that the NSSF is willing and ready to be a part of those discussions.

While Bartozzi didn’t mention any specific gun control policies, either in support or condemnation, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation did indicate a few days ago that the firearms industry trade group might be willing to support or at least remain neutral on “red flag” legislation.

  • Red flag laws, already in place in many states, can be a palatable compromise as long as adequate “due process considerations” are addressed, Mark Oliva, NSSF’s managing director for public affairs, told Axios.

NSSF’s Oliva said he was “disappointed” by President Biden’s speech on Thursday that called for broader restrictions such as a federal assault weapons ban and universal background check legislation, both of which NSSF opposes.

  • But “the Senate doesn’t seem to be derailed by the president’s divisive comments,” Oliva said. “They are continuing to work in good faith, and I’m encouraged.”

I have a good relationship with the NSSF and consider a lot of folks over there, including Mark, my friends. Having said that, I’m disappointed to see Oliva talk about red flag laws being a potential point of compromise so long as “due process” issues are addressed. The flaws in red flag laws go far beyond due process concerns, and extend to their very purpose: identifying someone who’s a danger to themselves or others and taking their guns away, while leaving the dangerous person left to their own devices.

Red flag laws don’t provide “greater mental health services” as Bartozzi called for. In fact, in the vast majority of red flag laws there’s no room for mental health professionals at all, either in determining whether or someone is a danger to themselves or others or in providing mandated treatment to supposedly dangerous individuals. Red flag laws offer a gun control solution to a mental health problem, which isn’t really a solution at all.

I’m glad to see that Bartozzi didn’t bring up “red flag” laws in his column, which could either be an indication that the trade group is backing off of its support or a sign that they don’t want to suggest specifics and instead will wait to respond to whatever package, if any, the Senate cobbles together. I don’t blame the industry for their efforts to push back on Joe Biden’s ridiculous assertions that the gun industry is responsible for every crime in which a gun is used (in fact they absolutely should be doing that), I just hope that their willingness to be a part of the conversation doesn’t lead them to lend their support to fundamentally flawed gun control “solutions” like Extreme Risk Protection Orders.