By the millions, law-abiding Americans are buying firearms. Many are doing so for the first time, mainly for self-protection. That’s kept local gun stores busy and kicked up the debate, by some, of just how essential firearm retailers are during a health crisis.
NSSF’s Larry Keane joined the Washington D.C.-area radio’s Kojo Nnamdi Show to explain why it’s vital local firearm retailers stay open during the coronavirus pandemic. The show guests, Guns and America Senior Editor A.C. Valdez, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Nnamdi, noted that gun sales have spiked recently because firearm-related stores were deemed “essential” and have remained open.
They should be. NSSF worked to ensure gun retailers across the country keep the lights on. They mean safety for local communities, and Keane noted keeping firearm retailers open is foundational to the free exercise of rights, stating, “to close gun shops denies a constitutional right to Americans who want to purchase a firearm for self-defense, as is their right, in these uncertain times…People are concerned about their safety and the safety of their family in these very unsettled and unprecedented times.”
But keeping firearm retailers open is critical for another reason. D.C. Council Chairman Mendelson warned criminal use of firearms may follow higher gun sales and are common in the nation’s capital, adding, “Gun violence is a problem…but they’re not from registered guns.” He nailed the point.
Prosecutors are announcing they won’t prosecute, and criminals are being released from jail, so it’s no wonder law-abiding Americans are concerned and heading to their gun retailer. Keane added, “I commend the chairman for pointing out that legally-owned firearms aren’t the problem.”
Local firearm retailers are also most often where police departments are supplied. It’s where they buy firearms, ammunition and tools needed to keep the peace and protect communities. Shooting ranges provide practice opportunities. Closing gun stores would make a bad situation worse, because as Keane noted, it would mean, “law enforcement can’t access the tools they need to keep us safe.”
Beyond constitutional rights and law enforcement, one gun-owning caller summed up gun ownership, “responsibility comes with it.” All agreed, and Keane touted NSSF efforts encouraging gun-owners to be educated, responsible and safe.
“The industry strongly encourages anyone who owns a firearm to know how to do so safely and responsibly; to store those firearms when not in use and separate from the ammunition so that unauthorized individuals like children can’t get them,” Keane said.
NSSF’s program ProjectChildSafe has distributed 38 million free firearm safety kits including a free cable-style gun lock to 15,000 law enforcement agencies. Those are shared with communities in all 50 states. NSSF also educates firearm retailers through Operation Secure Store to increase safety measures at stores to reduce the likelihood of theft and robbery. These efforts and more are paying off as gun ownership has reached all-time highs.
“Firearm ownership has been increasing…and all the while crime continues to decline, and accidents involving firearms are at the lowest levels since record keeping began in 1903,” Keane added.
Firearm-owning Americans have a constitutional right to do so. Effective law enforcement requires necessary tools. Firearm ownership demands responsibility and stewardship. It all happens at a local firearm retailer.
Matt Manda is Manager, Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.