By Andy Massimilian
The gun industry needs to acknowledge and act on a simple fact of life: if you are involved with guns, you are unavoidably involved in politics…whether you like it or not.
Turning new gun owners into new gun voters starts with educating and engaging them regularly. Range owners and FFLs need to open up a new front on the war to preserve the Second Amendment or look for other lines of work.
The threat to our gun rights has never been greater, but even with a Biden-Harris administration and an emboldened ATF aggressively on the march, Second Amendment groups can mount an effective political counter attack if they utilize one of the few positives that came our way in 2020: 8+ million new gun owners.
Many of these newcomers aren’t from pro-gun demographics. With 40% reportedly women and a significant number African American, most of them likely vote for Democrats. However, that makes turning them into 2A voters an unprecedented opportunity because it will sap the strength of gun grabbers in their own party.
Moreover, receptivity to gun control is far greater if one doesn’t own a firearm and showing people who have taken that first big step of buying their own gun what they stand to lose with gun control is a winning argument if done correctly.
The civilian disarmament industry realizes the threat these newcomers present to their agenda and acted accordingly in the last election by running commercials ignoring or downplaying their candidates’ gun-grabbing ambitions.
Michael Bloomberg’s tag-teaming fabulists, John Feinblatt from Everytown and Shannon Watts from the Demanding Mommies, are also working hard to scare people away from gun ownership by essentially claiming it’s safer to wait for the police to show up to stop a home invasion than having a gun at the ready.
To counteract these charlatans, we need to exploit the gun control movement’s two biggest vulnerabilities that will shape public opinion in our favor: 1) gun control disadvantages your ability to defend yourself, 2) the shooting sports are fun and empowering.
Educating newcomers with facts is essential to communicating the first point on self-defense while engaging them in recreational shooting is vital to the second.
The opportunity is fleeting
The opportunity to educate newcomers will diminish once Biden pays off BLM/ANTIFA rioters and the leftist media stop manipulating the public with alarmist COVID stories. Given enough agenda-driven media, the reason those brand new handguns were purchased will be gradually be forgotten and their owners may consider a gun in the home to be a liability rather than the single best means of self-protection.
After the Atlanta and Boulder shootings, Congress and the administration are already under intense pressure as John Feinblatt and Shannon Watts gleefully exploit and stir up emotions to DO SOMETHING.
A concerted effort is needed NOW
The NRA and NSSF are uniquely positioned to join efforts to reach, engage and inform new gun owners; the NRA with its grassroots field staff and the NSSF through its industry connections.
Because newcomers may hold uniformed opinions, the passive approach now used by most industry people of letting newcomers learn the truth about gun control on their own will only get us a new cadre of Fudds who support “reasonable restrictions” and “gunsense” laws.
How can the NSSF and NRA work together most effectively? One way is to expand an underutilized NRA program: Second Amendment Activist Centers. If you haven’t heard of SAACs, you’re not alone and you’ve proven my point that the program needs promotion.
A Shift at the NSSF
SAACs require a cooperative industry and dedicated 2A activists to be effective. You can’t just become a SAAC and then say “we’re done” without doing the activist work on the ground they require tobe effective.
To that end, the NSSF should task its range team to get FFLs and commercial ranges on board while NRA grassroots field coordinators supply the educational materials, enlist volunteers and engage customers. This approach will make SAACs a prime distribution channel for educational materials on gun control to new and existing gun owners.
The NSSF should also include “Gun Owner to Gun Voter” programs in its range rating criteria and mandate participation in a SAAC for any range to get a 4 or 5 star rating. NSSF must urge FFLs and ranges to educate their customers on gun control and the gun policies espoused by their elected representatives.
Educating customers on gun rights and the threats to gun ownership should be considered a best business practice. This aggressive an approach requires NSSF to unify its organization from one that mainly operates in two stovepipes– industry support and government relations– to a coherent, across-the-board mission emphasizing that gun rights education is good business…and in this environment, survival depends on it.
NSSF articles that emphasize selling equipment to new shooters while ignoring the more critical need of selling them on the reality of gun control underscore this disconnect.
Get NRA ‘Issue Cards’ into the hands of new gun owners
Distributing NRA’s myth-busting fact cards like the ones shown here through the SAACs is a good starting point, but new topics need to be covered including . . .
- Gun control gives an attacker the advantage over you
- Gun control is racist and elitist
- Gun control destroys honest people: The Shaneen Allen story
- UBC’s enable government “lists” and surveillance of gun owners
- Opioid overdoses and cancer take many more lives than guns, but Mike Bloomberg seems to care little about those
- Don’t be gullible; Media artifice about guns and gun laws
- Deceptive “studies” that promote gun control
- The terms “gun safety” and “weapons of war” are lies of the gun ban lobby
- 15,000 gun laws still haven’t deterred criminals
- Waiting periods can kill you: The Carol Bowne story.
NRA staff and volunteers should also have a booth at SAAC “event days” to engage newcomers. Though the ammo crisis makes getting people into ranges and stores a challenge, there are inventive ways to create an audience. One way is to run product demonstrations of items that aren’t scarce like gun mounted laser/light devices, dry fire training aids, airguns, and home and car storage devices that keep guns hidden, but accessible.
Besides the personal approach, links to educational materials must also be displayed on each SAAC’s web site and in its email blasts. A web site button labelled “Criminal Mayors Who Support Gun Control” or a similarly provocative phrase will get the attention of newcomers that we need.
With Biden proclaiming that “gun manufacturers…are the enemy”, ranges and FFLs can’t stand on the sidelines and benefit from the work of 2A activists anymore
Ranges and FFLs have everything to lose, yet paradoxically most eschew educating their customers on the dangers of gun control. In New Jersey, for example, I found only two items that could educate customers on gun control at four high profile indoor ranges I recently visited; a newsletter from the NRA State affiliate at one and a poster on a cluttered, easily ignored bulletin board at another.
Three of these ranges garnered NSSF’s highest 5-star rating while the one with the newsletter is a self-appointed 6-star range owned by an NRA board member who leases the property from a gun enthusiast real estate developer.
Why isn’t this range, which “modestly” claims to be the “tip of the spear in the 2A fight”, an unabashed, out-in-the-open NRA member recruiter and SAAC that actively educates its customers on the facts and politics of gun control with the same penchant it shows for self-promotion and self-congratulatory 2A claims?
I can’t explain why these companies are frustratingly passive in educating their customers on the realities of gun control and their apparent aversion to recruiting membership in gun rights groups, but this myopically foolish practice isn’t limited to New Jersey.
A senior officer at a gun company told me they avoid politics and gun control in both their advertisements and employee communications as a matter of policy. That’s astonishing given that Democrats are committed to bankrupting the gun industry once they repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
This absurd timidity towards mixing business with gun politics is certainly not shared by our opponents.
Kroger Group Vice President of Corporate Affairs Jessica Adelman couldn’t have been more clear in response to the company’s banning open carry and ending the sale of gun magazines that show MSRs . . .
Kroger has demonstrated with our actions that we recognize the growing chorus of Americans who are no longer comfortable with the status quo and who are advocating for concrete and common sense gun reforms.
Other companies like Delta Airlines joined the virtue signaling by ending NRA member discounts after pressure from the obnoxious teenaged demagogues who led “March for Our Lives”.
If major companies like Delta that don’t have a dog in the gun control fight aren’t afraid to take aggressive anti-gun positions, why the hell are so many in our industry too pusillanimous to fight back publicly when their very existence is on the line?
How you can help
If you patronize a range or FFL that isn’t actively involved in turning new gun owners into gun rights voters, ask them why they’re sitting on the sidelines, freeloading off your advocacy, and ask them to become an NRA Second Amendment Activist Center. Remind them that talk is cheap.
Talking a good game on Facebook, gun forums, or podcasts is self-gratifying self promotion while working to educate newfound customers is far more consequential.
The gun industry needs to acknowledge and act on a simple fact of the world in which we live: if you are involved with guns, you are unavoidably involved in politics –whether you like it or not.
Turning new gun owners into new gun voters starts with educating and engaging them regularly. Range owners and FFLs need to open up a new front on the war to preserve the Second Amendment or start looking for other lines of work.