In the aftermath of the elementary-school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the NRA has thrust itself into the forefront of the national gun-control conversation, working to dismantle new gun legislation proposed by President Barack Obama and a Democratic-controlled Senate.
Meanwhile, the second most powerful gun lobby in the nation — the National Sports Shooting Foundation — has kept its distance from the debate.
Physically, that has been hard to do — the NSSF, the nation’s second most powerful gun lobby next to the NRA, is located in Newtown. Its white, Colonial-style building sits less than a mile away from Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“We just felt like it was appropriate to refrain from commenting in the immediate aftermath of the incident, because it would have been disrespectful to do otherwise and because we were affected by it as well because we’re part of the community,” Larry Keane, the organisation’s senior vice president, told Business Insider in an interview.
But since the massacre, the NSSF’s positions have been closely aligned with the NRA on reducing gun violence. It opposes most of President Barack Obama’s gun-control proposals — including background checks, the issue on the table earning the most consideration in the Senate at the moment.
It also opposes many of the laws that have been enacted at the state level, including sweeping new plans for an overhaul of Connecticut’s gun laws that are expected to be voted on Wednesday. The plans include a ban on 100 types of assault weapons, universal background checks, and a limit on magazine capacity.
“We’re disappointed, and we’re concerned because these proposals fail to meet the test of making Connecticut safer,” Keane said of the state’s new legislation.
In its opposition to universal background checks, the NSSF is going against a public that supports the measure by as much as 90 per cent in recent nationwide polls. In a recent Quinnipiac survey of Connecticut, meanwhile, two-thirds said they favoured blanket “stricter gun-control laws.”
In place of universal background checks, Keane said the NSSF wants to fix the current system, which he says is broken. The organisation also wants gun-control measures to focus on making guns inaccessible to those with mental health risks and imposing stricter penalties on so-called “straw purchasing” — illegally purchasing a gun for someone else.
“Reasonable minds can disagree on how to make things safer, but we don’t believe taking away constitutional rights will achieve that goal,” Keane said.
Keane said that the NSSF will place a renewed focus on Project ChildSafe, a nationwide program in which the NSSF works with local law enforcement agencies to educate gun owners on how to safely and properly store their firearms. The NSSF supplies local agencies with safety kits, which include a gun lock.
Practices like these, Keane argued, could have prevented Newtown assailant Adam Lanza from gaining access to his mother’s arsenal of weapons.
“It’s clear that had Mrs. Lanza made these types of firearms inaccessible to a person such as her son — who she knew had serious issues — this event would not have occurred,” Keane said.
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