‘We didn’t create the situation’
Gun rights lobbyists believe that atrocities such as the Newtown massacre, or what happened at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., or what happened in Norway, where the pseudo-commando Anders Breivik systematically hunted down and killed 69 people at a youth camp on an island, are not fundamentally the result of guns. This is a mental health and culture-of-violence issue, they say.
At his Newtown office, Sanetti, the NSSF president, argues that lawmakers shouldn’t focus on the “hardware.” He said the AR-15-style rifle has become “America’s rifle.” Versions of the black rifles are made by 55 companies, according to the foundation.
“It looks like a machine gun; it’s a scary-looking thing. And the other side plays on that fear,” Sanetti said. “But functionally, it’s identical to a wooden-stock, blued-steel rifle.”
At the Springfield Armory museum, historians will tell you that in the days of the early muzzle-loading muskets, a soldier could fire three aimed bullets per minute. But Adam Lanza, the shooter in Newtown, fired hundreds of rounds from a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle in just a few minutes. Lanza reportedly showed an interest in Breivik’s case.
Malkowski, like other manufacturers, produces black rifles that are modified to comply with the law in, for example, Connecticut, which had an assault-weapons ban at the time of the Newtown shootings.
With Congress discussing another assault-weapons ban and other gun-control measures, the firearms industry is booming. The NSSF said that the firearms and ammunition industry had $4.4 billion in revenue in 2011 but that the 2012 figure is likely to be about $6 billion when the final tally is made.
The foundation has dispatched representatives to testify in statehouses nationwide as gun legislation is debated.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of. We didn’t create the situation. We certainly didn’t pull the trigger in this awful incident. We feel awful for our friends and neighbors,” Sanetti said.
On the wall of his office is a model 1840 U.S. Army flintlock rifle.
“That was the assault rifle of its day,” Sanetti said.
Until Dec. 14, things had been looking up for the firearms industry, he said. Sales of hunting licenses had increased 9 percent nationally in five years. More people were engaged in target shooting. More single parents were buying guns for protection.
“Until this incident,” he said, “it seemed as if all the trends were going our way.”