Americans will protect themselves in times of crisis

Americans will protect themselves in times of crisis
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The COVID-19 crisis in the U.S. has spurred uncertainty in almost every aspect of American life. In the face of such widespread concern, it is only natural that individuals turn to their right to bear arms to ensure personal safety or the safety of their families. Gun control groups, however, refuse to acknowledge the fears of so many Americans and have instead concocted a narrative in which the gun industry tells people to buy ammo and firearms en masse — and everyone obliges.

The truth, however, is that Americans are buying guns because they do not feel safe.

Efforts by gun control groups to carelessly paint gun owners as ignorant and paranoid is not new, but to do so during our current pandemic simply ignores our current reality. While some gun control advocates have chosen to downplay the threats posed by state governments’ choice to release prison inmates or to delay policing of certain crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic, most Americans are rightfully worried about the public safety implications of such choices.

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The Center for Individual Freedom is right to point out that “emergency responders are stretched even more to their limits… due to their ongoing interaction with the public and elevated levels of stress placed upon them under perilous conditions.” As such, there is little question as to why Americans are taking a newfound responsibility for their own safety.

Such large increases in gun sales, however, has predictably led to increased strain on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that ensures everyone who wants a firearm is legally fit to own one. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association for which I work, was a key stakeholder in the original establishment of NICS and also a leading voice for the bipartisan Fix NICS Act that ensures, even throughout a pandemic, that NICS officials have access to as many applicable records as possible to determine a purchaser’s eligibility for gun ownership. 

Our industry has always been a staunch advocate for a strong NICS process to ensure guns stay out of the hands of the mentally ill, domestic abusers, and criminals. With NICS under more strain during this gun purchasing surge, Congress should provide ATF and NICS with the enhanced resources each agency needs to comply with the law. Too many times, gun control advocates opportunistically embrace restrictions on the Second Amendment when what is really needed is more resources for our government agencies that ensure the continuity of gun rights while also protecting our communities.

While Americans are ordered to stay at home and/or are being laid off in unprecedented numbers because of the coronavirus, there are legitimate and tragic concerns about increases in accidental deaths and an increase in suicide. To say that the firearms industry, however, is either ignorant or indifferent to these issues is both purposefully misleading and flat-out wrong. The NSSF has pioneered gun safety initiatives with the Real Solutions campaign that includes working extensively with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at the state level to address the national suicide crisis. While a study by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that data on homicide, suicide, and firearms “does not credibly demonstrate a causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide,” the firearms industry is nonetheless committed to addressing the mental health epidemic that is the root cause of so many people’s pain.

The firearms industry has also actively addressed unauthorized access to firearms through Project Childsafe by distributing — at no cost — over 38 million firearm safety education kits that include gun locks to more than 15,000 law enforcement partners in every single state for distribution in local communities. Gun locks are a simple yet radically effective tool to ensure children or other individuals who are unauthorized cannot access a firearm. NSSF’s Project Childsafe has been promoting gun safety since 1999. Our industry has been focused on these issues for more than 20 years.

There is no doubt that the national crisis caused by COVID-19 will have lasting impact on our country for years to come, and it is disheartening that gun control advocates have not taken the opportunity to learn that they and the firearms industry can work together to produce real solutions for gun safety. The first step to a good partnership, however, is to show empathy towards Americans who are fearful of these uncertain times, and so far, gun control advocates have shown very little.

Lawrence G. Keane is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm an ammunition industry trade association.