The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind for most. That’s certainly true for the firearm and ammunition industry. It has also revealed the character of who we are.
We are an industry of caring, dedicated and resilient Americans who believe in the critical role we fulfill to our nation and our communities. Our industry – from manufacturers through the retailers staffing the gun counters – has responded admirably. We continue to provide services that are essential to our nation, critical to our communities and necessary to our customers.
NSSF, like most others, scrambled to make sure we could stay in business, and more importantly help our members stay in business. That work is reflected in a new page on our website, where our team is continually updating state and local orders, member alerts and news information critical during this health crisis. This page is being updated continually. Check it often.
Keeping Industry Open
NSSF’s Government Relations team, both the Federal Affairs and State Affairs, were quick to anticipate the torrent of stay-at-home and closure orders to head off infection from COVID-19. The Federal Affairs team immediately reached out to the Trump Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure manufacturing was included in the critical infrastructure list.
The reason was simple. Our industry must continue to deliver on Department of Defense contracts. The U.S. military’s national security mission continues, and so does our requirement to arm those who perform it. Virtually all the small arms the U.S. military uses are produced by domestic manufacturing. The ammunition to feed the military’s guns comes from a DoD plant that is contracted to commercial manufacturing.
The State Affairs team also began speaking with governors, state legislators, county officials and mayors to ensure federally licensed retailers were listed as “essential” retail services. Like the national security mission, community safety is vital.
Many local law enforcement departments rely on their community’s firearm retailers for their supplies with both guns and ammunition. Without these critical services, police are hampered in their ability to preserve safety and order.
Our retailers provide the last link in the chain to ensure law-abiding Americans can purchase the firearms they choose to protect themselves and their families. We’ve witnessed an unprecedented surge in demand for firearms and ammunition.
The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) told NSSF staff there was a 300 percent volume increase for background checks on March 16 over the same day in 2019. Background checks have been running roughly double what they were each day since Feb. 23.
NSSF has been working to ensure retail services are considered “essential” to these customers, many of whom are buying guns for the first time. NSSF provided resources for these new buyers to know and understand safety measures they must consider, but it is the critical face-to-face interaction by retailers that has made the difference in welcoming these new gun owners to our family.
Members Step Up
NSSF staff is literally rolling up their sleeves to show Gun Owners Care. Those who are healthy are encouraged join to NSSF to download the “Blood Donor” app to a smartphone and on the bottom right corner click on “Impact.” From there donors can search “Gun Owners Care” and join this group.
This app is handy for finding and making blood donation appointments and keeping track of when and where donations are being used. It has the added benefit of informing all who join to see the potential life-saving impact as a whole group.
The American Red Cross is experiencing a critical need for blood production donations as uncertainties remain during the pandemic. “Blood drives continue to be canceled at an alarming rate and patients need a sufficient blood supply throughout the many weeks of this crisis and beyond.
The industry has responded in other ways too. Remington’s CEO Ken D’Arcy offered up idled manufacturing space to be repurposed to address the demand for masks, ventilators and even hospital beds to help fight the pandemic. Blue Alpha Gear and Cole-TAC both announced they were turning to producing face masks.
Brownells donated computer server space for research test modeling. Federal Ammunition donated masks to hospitals near their Anoka, Minn., plant. CMMG made lunches for first responders. PhoneSkope teamed with Share Our Strength, donating five percent of every sale to help fund the “No Kid Hungry” for kids who rely on school lunches but don’t have them now.
This crisis, unfortunately, is fatal for some. The loss of life and the gravity of this can’t be understated. NSSF urges all to follow CDC guidelines, practice social distancing and listen to local authorities to safeguard the health of your families, your teams and your customers. This crisis, though, has also revealed our character. Ours is an industry that cares. Together, we’ll emerge from this stronger.
Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.