NEWTOWN, Conn. — In an extended interview with the PBS Frontline program, Steve Sanetti, president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, emphatically says that the nation’s firearms owners and firearms industry are not responsible for the criminal misuse of firearms and, consequently, should not be subjected to the severe restrictions being considered by Congress and many state legislatures. “[Firearms owners] are not the bad guys. The industry isn’t the bad guys,” said Sanetti in the interview. “Insofar as we can help the situation we want to be able to help. But that doesn’t mean piling meaningless restrictions and onerous conditions upon people who want to exercise their rights and just enjoy what they do peacefully.”
PBS has devoted unprecedented airtime this week across all of its news programming platforms to coverage of violence in American society. NSSF agreed to do the interview in order to provide the firearms industry’s perspective on contentious gun and legislative issues.
NSSF is the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry and has more than 8,000 members.
The following quotes by Sanetti are taken from the wide-ranging interview:
On restricting magazine capacity: ”Millions and millions of law-abiding Americans use semiautomatic firearms with detachable magazines of varying capacities, and millions and millions of them every day don’t do a thing wrong. And so we feel that it’s not the correct approach and do not support magazine limitation.”
On selling guns and providing safety literature: ”. . . people look at a trade association like ours and assume that the only thing we’re interested in is selling guns. Not true. We want our products to be used safely and responsibly. Because let’s face it, we’re the ones who get blamed if products are used unsafely or irresponsibly.”
On Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) saying AR-style rifles are designed to kill people: ”With all due respect he could not be more wrong . . . . You have millions and millions . . . of Americans who pass a background check, who buy these guns and have millions and millions of magazines . . . . [Yet] the crime rate has been going down. If you tell these people . . . who use these guns for legitimate purposes . . . ‘You’re nothing but a murderer, because that’s the only reason why anyone would own guns is to kill people.’ How are you going to get these people to cooperate [on solutions to violence]?”
On violence and guns: ”Let’s take Connecticut. In Connecticut there are exactly two homicides committed with a rifle of any kind in the last seven years. There were 40 deaths annually from knives, 320 deaths annually from clubs and 20 deaths annually from hands and feet. So it’s not just firearms.Yes, firearms can be misused, but other things can be misused too. So the focus I think should be on violence.”
Who or what is to blame for what happened in Newtown? ”I think primarily the firearms owner in this instance was not exercising that degree of personal responsibility . . . she should have done. She knew she had an at-risk individual in her home . . . . She knew he needed help. She knew he was mentally troubled. She had firearms in the house that she purchased legally. She had gone through all the background check required in Connecticut, the guns were registered to her, nothing was done improperly or illegally. But where I think she really caused this incident was by not adequately storing these guns securely away from her son who she knew to have these problems. Had she done that this incident would not have occurred and you wouldn’t see this big cry over, let’s have more gun control.”
On hasty lawmaking: ”. . . people react emotionally. And I think people make bad decisions when they are angry, when they are fearful and when they act in haste. And I think that this situation had the making of all three.”
On restrictions on, and increased sales of, firearms: ”We want people to own firearms for the right reasons because they understand, respect them, enjoy them, and will use them safely, properly, and responsibly. So the idea of a mad rush for everybody to buy a firearm I don’t think is necessarily the best trend in the world but it’s a fact of life because, as I say, we’re Americans, and if you say we can’t have something, people want it.”
To stay abreast of federal and state legislation that could potentially restrict ownership and use of semiautomatic firearms and ammunition and also to write your legislators, visit the NSSF Legislative Action Center here.