Gun group considered leaving Newtown

National Shooting Sports Foundation mulled moving offices after pressure from neighbors, protestors
Associated Press
Nov 23, 2013

 The gun industry's national trade association and lobbying organization considered moving its offices from Newtown after last year's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

With a handful of the nearly 50 foundation employees confronted by angry neighbors and protesters appearing outside the foundation's headquarters, Steve Sanetti said he had to look at the situation from "a strategic standpoint" and determine whether having the name of Newtown associated with the organization would affect its mission to promote hunting and shooting sports.

"We had to consider whether a move was appropriate," Sanetti said Wednesday. "But I polled all the employees here and, to a person, it was like, 'Don't move. We like it here. We're part of the community. We have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of. We didn't do this. We've been fighting this sort of thing. Stay the course.'"

While the Northeast is not necessarily steeped in the hunting culture, like other parts of the country, Sanetti said the foundation is located in Connecticut because the manufacturing base of the firearms industry was historically located here. NSSF boasts a membership of 9,500 of mostly businesses, including manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers. It owns the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, the largest of its type that draws nearly 70,000 people involved in the industry.

Many Newtown residents were likely unaware of the foundation's existence until Adam Lanza shot his way through the school Dec. 14, 2012, killing 20 first-graders and six educators before committing suicide. The organization has been based in Newtown for 20 years, located in a white colonial-style building along a main road into town, but only its initials and street address appear on a sign posted out front.

After the massacre, Sanetti said the group deliberately didn't make any statements for about a month.

"Being here in the community, we just didn't think it was appropriate, frankly. It was respectful silence," Sanetti said. "It was horrible in town here. The funerals going by and everything."

Sanetti said many of his employees knew families affected by the shooting, as well as the first responders and teachers. One of the slain teachers went to school with Sanetti's daughter. He called the incident "a punch to the stomach."

The Danbury state's attorney's office on Monday is scheduled to release its report on its investigation into the shooting.

Sanetti said the group became more outspoken as Connecticut and other states moved to tighten their gun laws.

"That's when we began visibly stating our positions on things and that's when the protesters started coming," Sanetti said. Some have held signs protesting the National Rifle Association, which is a separate organization that represents mostly individuals.

Dave Ackert, chairman of the Newtown Action Alliance, a grassroots group formed after the massacre to advocate against gun violence, contends that NSSF holds many of the same positions as the NRA.

"There are plenty of people who would wish they would leave, not because they're affiliated with the gun industry but because of their position on common-sense regulations like closing universal background check loopholes," Ackert said.

Ackert said the positions that NSSF has taken "are not welcome here in Newtown, not the rank-and-file employees."

Yet Sanetti contends gun safety is a major focus for his group.

"It has to be said, that had Mrs. Lanza in town here taken the appropriate steps to keep her guns secured from her son, who she knew to be at risk, this wouldn't have happened," Sanetti said of 20-year-old Adam Lanza's mother, Nancy. Police said Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother before committing the school rampage.

Lanza lived with his mother in a house filled with guns and ammunition, according to warrants released by investigators. Authorities haven't released details of Lanza's mental health history, but Nancy Lanza told a divorce mediator in 2009 that she didn't like to leave her son alone.

After the Newtown shooting, NSSF hired a public relations firm to promote and rebrand its Project ChildSafe effort, dedicated to gun safety and the distribution of gun locks. During President George W. Bush's presidency, ChildSafe received $92 million in federal funds and distributed 34 million gun locks across the country. NSSF is now seeking $10 million in federal funding to supplement the $1 million the gun industry provides annually. Sanetti said he was optimistic in January after attending a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, whose senior policy adviser approached Sanetti and said the administration liked the program. But there was no follow-up, he said.

The foundation's gun lock program is still being embraced by law enforcement and municipal leaders throughout the country who've made requests for more gun locks. And while it has gotten some public support in Connecticut since Sandy Hook, including at a news conference with Bridgeport's Democratic Mayor Bill Finch, an active member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, some of NSSF's friends in the state have steered clear of the initiative because it's sponsored by the gun industry.

"It's a raw nerve here," Sanetti said. "I understand that."

Comments

goofus

I'll answer that we fight against background checks like liberals fight against showing an I.D. to vote!!!!!

Nemesis

Well, goofus has a good point, but the simple reason is that the background check system can be used to create a de facto registry.

There's a simple solution that most gun owners would support. Open up the instant check system so anyone, not just FFL holders, can use it. Anyone can go to a website or call a toll-free number, provide the information, and get a go or no go response as to whether a buyer is under disability, and a confirmation number to keep as proof that they ran the check. Then pass a law that indemnifies a seller from liability for subsequent actions of the buyer, provided the seller ran the background check and it came back clean. It's voluntary, but with a strong incentive. The key is, anyone, anytime, can run a background check on anyone else, whether they're selling them a gun or not, so you could run one on your aunt in the nursing home, your kids kindergarten teacher, or the anti-gun crusader next door. It enables data obfuscation such that it could never be used as an effective registry, so there's no reason for gun owners to object, and it gets anyone who would comply with a mandatory check to run a check voluntarily.

Of course you won't like it because it's not authoritarian enough for you - or else because you actually DO want it to become a backdoor registry scheme.

Nemesis

The other problem is how do you define mentally ill and who gets to set the definition? Throughout the history of psychology, the definition of mental illness has more often than not been a matter of how inconvenient one's actions were to those in power. For an example that should hit close to home for a leftist like you, homosexuality was defined as a mental illness for most of the 20th century.

SamAdams

You're right. And there are other considerations as well.

First, even a relatively mild and temporary depression is technically a "mental illness." But with a diagnosis of "depression" on your record, is that or is that NOT defined as a "disability?"

Secondly, MOST mental illnesses aren't deadly to the person suffering from them OR to the people surrounding them. So how do we justify tapping into the most private of medical information for licensed dealers or, as one other suggested, for pretty much everybody?

Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly), it's not those who've been diagnosed AND TREATED that are usually the problem. It's the few suffering from truly serious illnesses who are diagnosed and UNtreated (or worse, those who are never diagnosed at all).

And Nemesis, to further address your point concerning defining mental illness, it's VERY interesting to note that Barack Obama himself exhibits the classic symptoms of something called "narcissistic personality disorder" (as well as many of the symptoms that tag a sociopath). These are not NECESSARILY dangerous, but they CAN be. What do we do about someone like that in a position like that, hmmm?

Nor'easter

If you research the causes of the mass shootings, you will find these are the indirect result of the HIPPA law that prohibits Mental Health professionals from releasing information without the written permission of the patient. These events started happening after HIPPA was passed and will continue until this "government solution" is properly revised.

arnmcrmn

Nemesis, thats a good idea in regards to selling guns (person to person) and I think most would go for that. You could even throw in a $5.00 charge per check or call so the government doesn't feel left out. Print out a certificate, transfer all the info….etc. HOWEVER, it still will not stop all sales.

Nemesis

The idea is that you could spend your Saturday afternoon calling in background checks on all your neighbors who DON'T own guns, and thus obfuscate the data so it's useless as a gun owner registry. Charging a fee makes that cost prohibitive and takes away the feature that gets gun rights advocates to support it.

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