(The following letter to Steve Sanetti, President of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, has been received for publication.)
Dear Mr Sanetti,
I am writing you as a concerned mom and fellow citizen of Newtown. Since December 14, I have struggled to make sense of the horrible crime at our beloved Sandy Hook School. Along with many others, I seek any and all solutions so that no other community experiences a similar event in the future.
In your interview with Matt Kaufman on PBS’s Frontline you said “We care deeply about the safety of our children . . . We are a responsible industry, making responsible products for law abiding citizens, actively promoting lawful and responsible gun ownership.” I learned that your organization improved hunter safety by promoting the use of orange clothing. You distribute a large number of Child Safe locks. These actions have decreased accidental shootings, but they are not enough. If you think that firearms safety is under control, you might follow on Twitter @OhhShoot, which links to news reports of accidental gun injuries and deaths in this country. They happen every day.
While the gun industry has made advances in developing firearms that are powerful, accurate, customizable, light and easy to use, fewer technological advances have made them safer, such as internal locks, smart gun technology to restrict the use of a gun to its owner, and visible indicators that a gun is loaded. These advances (along with a commitment to develop technology to ensure that bullets can be traced to the gun that fired it) were part of an agreement signed by Smith and Wesson in 2000. After a backlash and boycott by the rest of the industry that cut S&W’s sales in half, they abandoned the agreement. One can only wonder if the rest of the industry had followed S&W’s lead in cooperating with the government instead of fighting it, how many fewer gun deaths would have happened in the last 13 years.
While the Bushmaster AR-15 that Adam Lanza used did not cause the crime at Sandy Hook, as the tool he chose it was the major factor in the scale of the carnage. AR-15 rifles, formerly black rifles or tactical rifles, re-branded as “modern sporting rifles,” are descendents of guns designed for the theater of war. These types of weapons are popular and a source of big profits in your industry, but the economic benefits must be balanced against public safety. Ensuring that no inappropriate person has access to a gun without a background check should be uncontroversial. Instead, NSSF is aligning with the NRA leadership to resist any and all proposed changes. Are these the actions of a responsible industry, concerned about the safety of our children?
Most gun owners are not extremist in their views and some are joining the conversation about gun safety. They accept responsible limitations on their freedoms in the interest of the greater public good. I hope that your organization decides to engage in this kind of conversation and participate with government and the greater community about finding solutions.
31 Osborne Hill Road, Sandy Hook March 2, 2013