The trade group for the nation’s leading firearm manufacturers said it will not actively oppose the expansion of background checks, which are designed to prevent guns from reaching criminals or the seriously mentally ill.
“That’s more the NRA’s issue,” Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), said in an interview. “From the commercial side, we’re already there, and we’ve been there, and we were the ones that have been the strongest proponents of an effective, complete background check.”
Sensing an opportunity, a group of big-city mayors wrote to major gun manufacturers Monday, warning that their governments may begin using economic leverage to win support for increased regulation, including an extension of background checks. The mayors of Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and other large cities spend millions on firearms and ammunition each year for their police departments.
“Our residents want to ensure that the tax dollars that are being used to purchase guns for our police departments are going to manufacturers that share our values and support our strategies,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who leads the National Conference of Democratic Mayors, wrote in a letter to Glock and the NSSF.
The recipients did not comment on Tuesday.
The effort to drive a wedge between the gun industry and the NRA intensified ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on the Democrats’ gun-control program. The plan includes proposals for an assault-weapons ban, new restrictions on gun trafficking, school safety and criminal background checks.
Gun manufacturers have been wary of crossing the NRA, in part because of the bruising experience of Smith & Wesson more than a decade ago. During the Clinton administration, the firearm maker privately negotiated gun-safety issues. Gun rights groups swiftly punished Smith & Wesson, urging dealers not to carry the company’s products and creating serious financial trouble.
Representatives from some gunmakers are discussing details of the expanded background check proposal in confidential talks with congressional staff, according to people familiar with the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversations.
Gun store owners and retail dealers, for the most part, have been more vocal in supporting an expansion of background checks after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December. Because commercial establishments are already required to perform them, an expanded background check requirement probably would increase traffic and business for licensed dealers.