This week, the Detroit Free Press (DFP) opened a particularly offensive editorial against the industry with the following line: “One of the most profound distinctions making itself clear in the wake of President Obama’s push for new gun legislation is the intellectual schism between gun owners and gun sellers. For the former, the Second Amendment is about protecting a sacred right. For the latter, it’s about sales. And money.”
The editorial focused on debate over S. 54, legislation targeting “straw purchases” that was introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Without bothering to ask NSSF its position on the bill, it implicated the industry as a whole, saying that cracking down on straw purchases “would hurt gun sellers the most.”
NSSF set the record straight with a rapid response op-ed, and delivered it to the Free Press within hours. DFP acknowledged the submission, but has not run the piece in either its print or online edition, so we bring it to you in its entirety below.
Meanwhile, a report of a recent study of firearm retailers has surfaced in the media, entitled “Most gun dealers vigilant, survey finds.” That report opens by saying “A new survey of firearms dealers suggests many of them are on alert against straw purchasers and those buying guns without proper documentation, and they want rogue gun merchants to pay a steep price for their misdeeds.” The author contacted NSSF for a quote, in which we relayed much of the same messaging as in our op-ed to the DFP. The quote was dutifully included by the author.
So. The San Francisco Chronicle, via the Hearst News Service, is giving fairer treatment to one of America’s oldest manufacturing industries than the Detroit Free Press. Go figure. But please enjoy our response below, since the Free Press won’t let you read it.
Rebuttal: Gun Industry Supports Laws That Already Exist Against Gun “Straw Purchases”
By Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President & General Counsel of NSSF
We take exception to the mischaracterization of the firearm industry’s position on straw purchases in your editorial, “GOP foolishly defends gun sellers’ greed,” which asserts that this issue is “…about sales. And money.” In truth, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and our member companies have been leading the charge against straw purchases for years, including in Detroit.
It is already illegal to buy a gun for someone who can’t legally buy a gun for themselves; you could get up to ten years in jail and be fined as much as $250,000 dollars. The problem is that straw purchasers are rarely severely punished. According to a 2012 report to the Department of Justice, more than 72,000 people were denied a gun purchase in 2010 because they failed the background check. In the end, only 13 were successfully prosecuted. Vice President Joe Biden himself declared “we simply don’t have the time or manpower to prosecute everybody who lies on a form, that checks a wrong box, that answers a question inaccurately,” regarding the lack of prosecutions for lying on the federal gun purchase form.
Meanwhile, over a dozen years ago NSSF partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to reduce straw purchases by launching a comprehensive education campaign, called “Don’t Lie For The Other Guy.” This campaign, funded by our member companies, has spent almost $6 million in over 35 cities, including Detroit.
Firearms retailers receive a free kit to train personnel on how to detect and deter straw purchases. The kit includes point-of-sale materials to warn consumers about straw purchases and the penalties associated with them, and guides for training employees. The program also involves public service announcements that it is a serious crime to illegally straw purchase a firearms. The bottom line of the campaign – “Purchase a gun for someone who can’t, and buy yourself 10 years in jail.” The gun industry has been united for many years in support of Don’t Lie For The Other Guy and in the overall quest to eliminate straw purchases.
We welcome this conversation because legal, responsible gun makers, sellers and owners nationwide are committed to keeping our communities, and especially our children, safe. We wholeheartedly reject the assertion that gun sellers are complicit with straw purchasers, “know what’s going on, but won’t stand up for the law, or what’s right.” Nothing could be further from the truth, and your readers deserve the undeniable facts of this debate.