Gabby Giffords Q&A with Ryan Busse
Jun 02, 2021
Ryan, thank you for chatting with me today. You offer such an important perspective on gun violence prevention, as a former firearms industry insider, and we’re lucky to have you on our team. What inspired you to change your path and join us in fighting for responsible gun safety policies?
I think it is important to note that millions of gun owners believe in responsibility and decency. I am one of them. I stayed in the industry to fight for those things because I own and use guns. They play an important role in my life. But it is responsibility that holds our democracy together. Sadly, over the years my voice was drowned out by a growing force that trafficked in hatred and conspiracy theories. It all resulted in the radicalization of our country.
I left because I saw powerful forces in the gun industry prioritize the next election or the next gun sale over the health and safety of our country. I saw people like Kyle Rittenhouse heralded as heroes. I saw people praise armed men who invaded capitals and intimidated lawmakers. I even experienced people mocking you and belittling your courage, and that angered me.
I believe strongly in responsible gun ownership, but I also believe we have a responsibility to be a part of the solution and not the core of the problem. I joined Giffords as a senior advisor so that I could help with solutions.
Your book Gunfight came out on October 19th. I can’t wait for everyone to read it and learn about your journey. In your book, you discuss having to balance your personal beliefs, the safety of your family, and your desire to prevent your former company from adopting the increasingly violent rhetoric of the gun lobby. What about our current political moment made you want to share your story now, and what do you hope readers take away from it?
I experienced many tragic events from a perspective that many Americans only wonder about. I was working inside the gun industry during watershed moments like Columbine, Las Vegas, and Parkland. For a long time, I think that people in the business wrestled with the truth about the role of guns in those events. But there came a time when it was obvious that more turmoil, fear, and hatred was also the most effective sales tool, and so that old concern evaporated.
And then we began to see an embrace of this dangerous armed militia movement as if it were somehow mainstream. Of course, we also eventually saw thousands of angry people storm our Capitol, and I do not think it was an accident that many of their flags displayed the AR-15. A weapon of war had become the organizing symbol for an entire political movement.
I want readers to know that this devolution is not acceptable. It’s not safe and it is not sane. I know there are millions of responsible gun owners who agree, and it’s time we stand up and make our voices heard.
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The gun lobby plays a frightening role in the radicalization of a small but very vocal segment of Americans. From the attack on the US Capitol in January to protests at state capitols around the country, we’ve witnessed the increasing extremism of the gun lobby and the dangers this can pose to the public. The gun lobby has prioritized policies that are divorced from the best interests of the public, and in the process it has put all Americans at an increased risk of gun violence. How do we fight back against the dangerous lies and division promoted by the gun lobby?
A central through-line of my book is the idea that the dangerous right wing politics we live with today were in fact developed by the gun industry. These sorts of things grow because just like runaway quarterly capitalism, they produce short-term results. Anything can be sacrificed for one more vote or one more sale. But at what cost? I am now convinced that the industry will cheer the destruction of anything if it means another good sales quarter or another election win.
I’ve seen it up close. I tell the story in the book about how the NRA knowingly used Sandy Hook to build more political power. If they were willing to use the deaths of little kids to build power, then it should be no surprise that they are also willing to sacrifice democracy to keep things at a fever pace. It’s got to stop, and we have to empower reasonable gun owners to stop it.
In November, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the most significant Second Amendment case in a decade. Its decision in the case, regarding New York State’s permitting requirements for the concealed carry of firearms, could threaten the safety and security of all Americans. Can you talk about why you think lower or no standards for permitting concealed carry poses such a significant threat to public safety?
Lisa Tu—Oct 01, 2021
There is an extremely dangerous trend in the gun world now called “Second Amendment absolutism.” This is the idea that there can be literally NO restrictions on gun ownership. The New York case is not so much about people in New York as it is about the effort to do away with all reasonable regulation.
I had a college professor who once explained to me, “If we have a statue of liberty on one coast, we should have a statue of responsibility on the other.” I think he was very wise and I believe that no right should exist without responsibility. We are now living in an era of runaway irresponsible behavior. It’s in our politics and in our economy and it got its start in gun policy. Again, I believe we must be a part of the solution, not the problem.
There’s an important distinction between responsible gun owners and gun extremists. The majority of gun owners, including you and me, follow sensible gun safety practices and understand the importance of gun violence prevention, yet the minority of extremists often drown out our voices. Can you share with readers what responsible gun ownership looks like and why it’s so important for gun owners to advance commonsense gun safety laws?
I think I should start by stating what is not responsible. Currently, the industry celebrates a twisted culture that has elevated the AR-15 to become some sort of weird religious symbol. They believe it’s ok to encourage guns to be the central tool in “owning” your political enemies. They develop pejorative names for people who believe in safety, training, permitting, and responsibility and they pump millions of dollars into social media influencers who fuel it all.
None of that is responsible. All decent gun owners know that every right is balanced with responsibilities. Either we stand up and insist upon decency, or I fear that guns will be at the center of the movement that costs all of us all of our rights.
I realize that it is difficult to confront people whose very strategy is intimidation, but we must do it. Gabby, you are a powerful example for us all. But we have to realize you cannot do it alone. Good people across the country must decide to disavow the conspiracy, hatred, and fear created to keep people at each other’s throats. I am here to help, and to send a message to responsible gun owners: It’s time to stand up and fight against the forces dividing the country.
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