Firearm industry leader (opinion): ‘We will gladly work with others’

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. speaks during a rally of Students Demand Action leaders and gun violence survivors at the Capitol to demand senators pass life-saving gun safety legislation during a rally on Monday, June 6, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. speaks during a rally of Students Demand Action leaders and gun violence survivors at the Capitol to demand senators pass life-saving gun safety legislation during a rally on Monday, June 6, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

Eric Kayne / Associated Press

Words simply are not enough for Uvalde, Texas. That’s the honest truth. What’s needed is sincere, thoughtful, and focused action to prevent future tragedies. Anything less is a failure.

More must be done to protect our children, our schools, and our communities. That’s a calling to which those of us in the firearm industry rededicate ourselves daily.

The actions of the murderer in Uvalde defy rational thought. It is unacceptable, and as we know in Connecticut, the harrowing news of Uvalde strikes deep into the soul. Evil visited Uvalde, just as it once visited Newtown. We committed ourselves to Real Solutions then, just as we do now.

We recognize and feel the agony that this murderer wrought. We are not now and were not then immune to the reverberations of the horrific loss of innocent lives. We made an intentional decision to remain respectful of those who disagree with us, even when that disagreement is voiced in the most profane manner. That respect remains.

True change won’t come easy, nor will it be achieved by retreating to corners and hurling insults at others with whom we disagree. Change has happened, and NSSF has been at the forefront of efforts to effect that change. We 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.

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.

For more than 20 years, NSSF has partnered with over 15,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and five U.S. territories to distribute more than 40 million free firearm safety kits through our Project ChildSafe campaign. Those kits include a locking device to ensure firearms remain inaccessible to those who shouldn’t possess them, including children, prohibited individuals and those suffering a mental health crisis. Each firearm sold at retail includes similar locking devices, bringing that total to more than 100 million locks distributed. NSSF provides free educational materials to inform gun owners of secure storage options. NSSF urges all gun owners to lock their firearms when they’re not in use.

NSSF partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the largest suicide prevention organization in America, to end the tragedy of suicide by firearm. This partnership provides firearm ranges and retailers with information on how gun owners can have a “brave conversation” to intervene before a moment of crisis. That partnership was extended to the Department of Veterans Affairs. This and other NSSF programs are saving lives.

Clearly, there is work to be done. Tragedies like those in Uvalde and Newtown pierce deeply. We recognize as we look at our own children and grandchildren just how precious these innocent souls are. We long for answers that ensure their safety. Conversations about what must be improved need to happen, including steps to provide greater mental health resources and better secure our schools. NSSF knows we are not the experts in those fields, and we will gladly work with others to find those answers.

We continue to pray for the families and the communities in Uvalde and Buffalo, just as we continue to pray for those scarred by tragedy in Newtown. Those prayers are coupled with the commitment to work together to find Real Solutions. We know words are never enough.

Joe Bartozzi is the CEO and president of NSSF, the firearm industry trade association based in Newtown.