(The following letter to Barbara Richardson has been received for publication. Ms Richardson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the 3/18/13 edition of The Bee titled “A Call On NSSF For A More Responsible Dialogue.”)
Dear Ms Richardson:
We, too, share in your revulsion at the senseless act of a highly disturbed young man. Thank you for your letter, which gives us the opportunity to clarify our positions.
Thousands fewer accidental deaths have occurred and violent crime has decreased by 55 percent during the last 25 years despite a significant growth in firearms ownership, now comprising half the households in the country.
Firearms accidents have decreased by 22 percent in the last ten years alone, to less than one percent of all accidental fatalities. This is the lowest number of accidental deaths in any category. In a typical year, Connecticut has no accidental firearms fatalities but 1,400 fatal accidents from other sources, according to the National Safety Council.
This is partly because of our industry’s efforts. Thirty-five million Project Child Safe locks, plus many millions of other appropriate locking devices included with each gun sold, have helped.
All firearms can be safely locked and stored. All guns can easily be checked to see if they are loaded. Potential new electronic technologies rely upon batteries, which can fail at the worst possible time.
Forensic scientists can match fired bullets to individual firearms found at crime scenes. Attempting to mark bullets with microscopic numbers in the hopes of matching a bullet found today to a gun manufactured many years ago doesn’t work. Each time a gun is fired, the marks it places onto a bullet change. Markings also can be affected by cleaning the gun, changing worn parts or through neglect. This would be like placing a car’s VIN number onto its tire tread.
The vast majority of sporting firearms since the Civil War “are descendants of guns designed for the military.” The AR-15 rifle functions, just one shot for each separate trigger pull, exactly the same as any other common and popular semiautomatic rifles, pistols, or shotguns. In Connecticut, since 2006, rifles of all kinds (including AR-15s) figured into only two homicides until this ghastly crime. Knives, clubs, and even hands and feet are involved in more than 20 times this number in Connecticut each year.
The industry created retail background checks in the late 1980s, and we fully support making the records more complete, including appropriate additional mental health records. It is appropriate to point out that Mrs Lanza likely would have passed any background check. Had she met her responsibility to keep her lawfully purchased firearms properly secured, inaccessible by her deeply troubled son who she knew to be at risk, this tragedy never would have occurred.
The vast majority of firearms owners fully meet their responsibility to themselves, their families, and the public, as shown by dramatically decreasing crime and accident rates. Preventing unauthorized access to firearms by safe storage when not in use infringes on no one’s rights or limits their freedoms. We ache for our fellow citizens who have suffered such unimaginable losses, but heaping additional restrictions upon responsible firearms owners to “do something” is misplaced and simply will not work to stop criminals.
President & CEO
National Shooting Sports Foundation
11 Mile Hill Road, Newtown March 13, 2013