Industry Achieves Remarkable Results in Year Unlike Any Other
By Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President & CEO
This was a year for the record books, literally. The past 12 months were among the most challenging, eventful, and remarkable ever witnessed by the firearm industry. Although I am generally very optimistic, next year promises to be even more challenging.
Rather than dwelling on what’s likely to come with a new administration in 2021, it is worth looking back on what NSSF accomplished for our industry in 2020. We must have a sober assessment of all we’ve weathered and achieved to have a clear picture of what’s in store and prepare for the future.
The industry’s biggest challenge was nothing short of remaining in existence. When the coronavirus pandemic struck and government authorities began issuing shutdown orders, our Government Relations teams, both Federal and State Affairs, quickly stepped in. The single-most important achievement was the firearm industry’s inclusion in the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Critical Infrastructure Agency Essential Critical Infrastructure List. The industry was included for simple, but vital reasons.
First, health emergencies don’t end God-given rights, including the right to keep and bear arms. Given the potential disruption and chaos, that right in particular only becomes more pronounced. Second, our manufacturers were required to continue to deliver on U.S. military contracts. Our service members rely on our manufacturers, just as do American citizens. Last, the overwhelming majority of law enforcement agencies procure and maintain firearms for community safety through local retailers and ranges. They needed to operate to provide that service to our communities.
That was a significant achievement that benefitted our entire industry and every consumer of firearms and ammunition in this country. That’s why NSSF was so humbled and grateful to Laurie Lipsey-Aronson for presenting us with the North American Sporting Goods Wholesalers Chairwoman’s Award for the extraordinary contributions to the industry.
Those achievements resulted in record-setting firearm sales. As of this writing, we are knocking on the door of 20 million background checks for the sale of firearms. That surpasses previous records, set in 2016, of 15.7 million. That’s an incredible feat NSSF shares with manufacturers, distributors, and retailers across the board. Everyone adapted to these unexpected events and made this record-setting year possible.
NSSF was able to achieve much more. I was at the White House for the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act, the most significant conservation law passed in our lifetime. This law, which was championed by NSSF, will provide full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and addresses maintenance backlogs on federal lands. This helps to open our public lands for all Americans to conserve and enjoy for generations ahead. NSSF also supported the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act. That Act addresses the NSSF priority of creating a task force and authorizes funding to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is ravaging cervids. It also reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to conserve waterfowl habitat.
NSSF’s Federal Affairs team secured funding requests for the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which are vital to keeping our industry operating. NSSF’s efforts to increase public access to hunting and the shooting sports resulted in Interior Secretary David Bernhardt opening 97 wildlife refuges to hunting and fishing, giving Americans access to 2.3 million additional acres of public lands. Veterans and Gold Star families were given free access to federal public lands in perpetuity, recognizing their sacrifices for our nation’s freedom. In addition, gray wolves were delisted from the Endangered Species Act and management of them returned to state agencies.
The State Affairs team was just as busy. Much of the figh to keep retailers and ranges open was conducted in the states. NSSF’s team turned back closure orders and challenged gun-control efforts attempting to capitalize on the pandemic.
The State Affairs team made gains elsewhere, too, such as changing South Carolina’s hunting apprentice law to extend the hunter recruitment efforts, for example. Industry protection laws were passed in Louisiana, Utah adopted a constitutional amendment to protect the right to hunt and fish, and Pennsylvanians are hunting on Sunday for the first time in memory, due to NSSF’s work. NSSF blocked gun-control efforts in Washington state and Oregon, defeated attempted bans on traditional ammunition in Louisiana and Minnesota, and stopped the repeal of pre-emption laws in New Mexico. Congressional gun-control efforts withered in the U.S. Senate due to NSSF’s diligence to convince lawmakers these weren’t good for the industry or America.
This year, NSSF supported the confirmation and seating of Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Barrett is a dedicated originalist, meaning she interprets law as it is written, not as a mere “guideline” for ideologies. This gives the industry hope that a U.S. Supreme Court will take up and rule for industry-priority cases, including closely watched cases challenging bans on modern sporting rifles and magazines.
There was no shortage of work in 2020. Looking ahead, there’s still a mixed picture that won’t be settled until Georgia’s run-off elections in January are complete. However, pro-gun and pro-industry candidates overperformed. Pollsters projected increasing gains for gun control in Congress, but the opposite bore out. Gun-control lawmakers lost seats. As of this writing, the U.S. Senate is narrowly held by Republicans. Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are favored to win their run-offs, ensuring that a majority will remain to fend off gun-control attacks and attempts to alter our government, our Supreme Court, and our states.
The industry is taking former Vice President Joe Biden at his word when it comes to gun control. We will be on guard for threats to the industry through legislation and regulation, working to make sure our industry continues to thrive, just as we did in 2020.
There are no doubt challenges ahead, and that mettle will be tested. But with the support of this great industry, and the dedication of our entire team at NSSF, I remain steadfast and optimistic that we will be ready for any challenge.