Several dozen demonstrators who favor strengthened gun control conducted a news conference on Monday morning, January 13, across the street from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) on Mile Hill Road to endorse tighter gun controls, a cause energized by the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook School, in which 20 first-graders and six school staff members were killed.
The news conference, which was sponsored by the Newtown Action Alliance, also attracted a few supporters of the NSSF, which is a Newtown-based lobby group for the firearms industry. The alliance is a group that seeks to reduce gun violence through stronger gun control laws and cultural change.
The news conference was called to specifically protest the NSSF’s annual sponsorship of the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade) Show. This year that show runs from January 14 through 17 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.
Several alliance supporters read statements explaining their drive for strengthened gun control.
In a statement announcing the event, Po Murray of the alliance said, “We will expose the gun industry’s shameful record of selling military-style assault rifles that are routinely used in mass shootings, while at the same time it opposes new laws and policies to help prevent gun violence.”
In the 12/14 incident, the 20-year-old gunman used a military-style rifle to kill the 26 people.
Ms Murray added that a new report from the Violence Policy Center has found that the gun industry’s marketing of weapons has taken on an increasingly militaristic tone.
David Stowe of the Newtown Action Alliance told the group of journalists at the Monday protest, “We’re not saying that there’s no right to sell guns and to sell their supporting products. What we’re saying is that these products have consequences and the way they’re marketing them have consequences,” adding, “They need to be responsible and they need to be a partner with everyone else in solving the issues of gun violence.”
Town police officers stood by to prevent conflicts from occurring between the protesters and the small group of counter-protesters.
In a statement issued as the Monday morning protest was getting under way, NSSF spokesman Bill Brassard, said, in part, “While we respect the First Amendment rights of all Americans, we firmly reject the purposeful mischaracterization of our trade association and of the lawful business activities our members conduct.” He noted, “Our members do not sell ‘assault weapons’ to the American public. Calling semiautomatic rifles that resemble, but are not military firearms, is purposely misleading and intended to confuse the public.”
The NSSF spokesman continued, “We all abhor the criminal misuse of firearms. We understand that emotions run strong. But it is important to keep in mind that the Department of Justice and the Pew Research Center have both documented a dramatic 30-year downward trend in the use of firearms in violent crime, even as our nation’s population and the number of guns owned by Americans has risen significantly,” Mr Brassard said.
The alliance has sponsored a number of demonstrations near the NSSF headquarters during the past year to dramatize its members’ desire for strengthened gun control.