Anti-gun activists pointlessly protest SHOT Show

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

For only the second time since 2005, I’m not attending the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. With my wife resuming her cancer treatment and dealing with the side effects that come with it, I didn’t feel comfortable being 3,000 miles away in case I’m needed. I know I made the right decision, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that really wants to be in Las Vegas this week, checking out the new products, catching up with old friends, and even covering the smattering of protestors outside the convention centers where the trade show takes place.

The Bloomberg-funded Students Demand Action has sent several young activists to Vegas as part of the long-running campaign to demonize the firearms industry. Besides protesting outside of the SHOT Show itself, activist Sari Kaufman took to the pages of the Las Vegas Sun to compare the gun industry to the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries, alleging that the firearms industry “actively profits” off of violent crime.

This isn’t the first time in our country’s history that a major industry has played a role in creating a public health crisis. Like gun makers, tobacco and opioid companies’ reckless business practices cost lives and billions of taxpayer dollars. But thanks to the tireless work of young activists who fought for accountability, those companies were forced to pay for the harm they caused through major financial settlements. They were also required to change their marketing practices and fund prevention and education efforts.

The reality is that every American industry has to follow rules and regulations, and the gun industry shouldn’t be an exception.

This has to change.

The firearms industry doesn’t have to follow any rules or regulations? That would certainly be news to everyone in the industry attending SHOT Show, including ATF Director Steve Dettelbach, who addressed attendees on Tuesday.

What the anti-gun activists are really doing is using SHOT Show as their stage to demand the same old infringements they always call for.

This year, we’re demanding that the gun industry take commonsense steps to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by securing their supply chains and refusing to work with bad dealers, market their products responsibly and honestly, stop making AR-15s and other assault weapons that use high-capacity magazines, and innovate to make guns safer rather than more deadly.

Gun bans, “smart guns” (which, by the way, have been on display from a number of private companies at past SHOT Shows, with an annual promise that this year will be the year they’re available for sale), and vague calls to change industry practices without acknowledging the host of regulations and requirements that the industry already must comply with.

The gun control lobby’s comparison of the firearms industry to “Big Tobacco” and “Big Pharma” isn’t exactly new either. In fact, that strategy dates back to at least the 1990s. But unlike the tobacco industry, which misled the public about the dangers and harms of smoking for decades, and drug companies that promoted the idea that prescription-based opioids like Oxycontin weren’t addictive, the firearms industry has never maintained that guns are less-than-lethal items, as Kaufman suggests. She accuses the industry of deceptive or dishonest marketing but fails to provide even a single example to support her case.

Kaufman also alleges that the firearms industry is marketing guns directly to kids, which would be a pretty dumb decision for the industry, given that you have to be 18 years old to legally purchase one. But according to the gun control lobby, firearms designed for youth, like the single-shot .22 Crickett rifle I used to teach my youngest kids to shoot safely and responsibly, shouldn’t exist because they’re meant to be the gun equivalent of a gateway drug.

By that metric, of course, everything from the 4H Shooting Sports program to JROTC air rifle teams should be shut down because they’re no different than drug dens peddling fentanyl-laced pills to teens. Any mom or dad taking their kid hunting or even target shooting is no better than giving their kid a Camel to light up.

With millions of new gun owners over the past couple of years and a series of Supreme Court decisions that have taken everything from handgun bans to eradicating the right to carry off the table, the gun prohibition movement is becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to turn a fundamental right into a legal and moral wrong. The protests at SHOT Show aren’t meant to sway any of those attending. The convention is merely a backdrop for the anti-gunners to try to convince non-gun owners not only to stay that way but to make them believe that the individuals who make up the firearms industry, including moms and dads, law enforcement veterans, those who’ve used firearms in self-defense and those who live with the grief of losing a loved one to a gun-involved suicide or homicide… all of them, are willing to cast their humanity aside for their love of money.

That doesn’t jibe with my own experience within the industry. The reason why programs like Project ChildSafe, Don’t Lie for the Other Guy, Walk the Talk America, and a number of other efforts aimed at reducing crime, preventing unauthorized access to firearms, and reducing firearm-related suicides exist is because the men and women who work in the firearms industry care about these issues; they just don’t believe that criminalizing a constitutional right or obliterating the industry is the appropriate way to address them. With gun prohibitionists so intent on demonizing gun makers, sellers, and owners, we owe it to ourselves to do a better job of highlighting these programs and pushing back on their false narrative.