Firearm sales continue to be hot, even after a year of pandemic closures, civil unrest, elections and now the specter of gun control executive actions and legislation. The firearm industry, and those businesses that provide the means of exercising the Second Amendment, are working to ensure new firearm owners are welcomed, educated, and encouraged to practice safe storage and handling of their new purchases. This has always been a top priority and will remain so with more than 8.4 million first-time gun buyers last year and more joining the community each day.
As the coronavirus vaccine rollout continues and community lockdowns are lifted, Americans will be more comfortable visiting friends and families again. Neighborhood get-togethers and family barbecues will mean more children and visitors in homes with warmer weather arriving. It is critical to remind firearm owners to keep unattended firearms safely stored and inaccessible to those who shouldn’t possess them.
The great news is that local firearm retailers are doing their part to reinforce safe storage principles. NSSF, the firearm industry’s trade association, is doing our part as well with several proven initiatives to reduce firearm accidents.
Community Retailers as Safety Source
More than 21 million background checks for the sale of a firearm were run last year. Forty percent of those were for first-time gun buyers. African-Americans purchased firearms at a rate that was 58 percent higher than in 2019. Hispanic-American firearm purchasing rose 49 percent during the same period and Asian-American purchases rose nearly 43 percent.
The first quarter of 2021 saw an NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of almost 5.4 million, an increase of 13.3 percent over the first quarter of 2020, making this the highest first-quarter on record. The local retailers selling firearms are the first crucial contact to creating a culture of firearm safety.
Mike Sian, a firearm instructor at Spectrum Fitness in Minot, N.D., understands the importance of providing a welcoming face to new gun owners looking for education.
“You don’t want accidents to happen. And I think a lot of times the accidents happen because of the lack of education and training and curiosity,” Sian explained.
He emphasizes the importance of gun safety kits and firearm locks for unattended firearms, especially with children around. “You don’t know what it is, and it’s exposed and children are curious.”
In Claycomo, Mo., Don Pind explains why he spends time instructing new gun owners.
“A gun is supposed to make you feel better, that you can protect yourself if need be,” Pind said. “If you don’t have the proper training, all it is is a good paperweight.”
From North Dakota to Texas, Florida to California, Americans are proactively seeking out firearm education, training, practice opportunities and resources and their local firearm retailer is there to help with an open door and a smile.
One of NSSF’s firearm safety initiatives is Project ChildSafe, a campaign to promote safe firearm storage in the home. Since 1999, NSSF has partnered with more than 15,000 local law enforcement agencies in all 50 states to distribute over 40 million firearm safety kits, including free locking devices.
In Albuquerque, City Councilor Brooke Bassan praised two recent Project ChildSafe drive-through community events where parents with firearms in the home could receive educational materials and firearm locks, no questions asked.
“We gave out free gun locks and information about responsible firearm safety in the home,” Bassan said, explaining 1,000 gun locks were passed out. “Reducing violence, helping to reduce tragedy and making our city safer is so critically important.”
Successful events like these in Albuquerque are happening across the country as safe firearm storage remains a priority of new and experienced firearm owners alike.
Continuing Positive Trends
Responsible and safe firearm handling and storage comes with education and practice and leads to a more confident and mindful gun owner. NSSF has invested in Real Solutions to create safer communities. In addition to Project ChildSafe, NSSF programs like Don’t Lie For the Other Guy and Operation Secure Store ensure firearms remain beyond the reach of those who shouldn’t possess them. The FixNICS initiative increased reporting of disqualifying adjudicated mental health records to the FBI from 1.7 million in 2013 to over 6 million today, a 266 percent increase.
NSSF also partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to encourage gun owners to have a brave conversation and prevent the tragedy of suicide by firearm. A clear focus on a culture of firearm safety resulted in the lowest number of unintentional firearm fatalities in more than 100 years since record keeping began in 1903.
As Americans begin to return to normal life, including more visits and celebrating with friends and family, it’s crucial that safe and responsible firearm storage remain a top priority for America’s gun owners, so the numbers continue in the right direction.
Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.