Meet the NSSF: the New Face of the Gun Lobby
Armed protests, political violence, and far-right extremist groups are all fueled by gun industry marketing.
When we talk about “the gun industry,” what exactly are we talking about? The NRA has long been the most recognizable face of the gun lobby, but since it’s busy drowning in scandals, a lesser-known organization has stepped up to the plate: the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).
Every notable firearm company and retailer is an NSSF member. For all intents and purposes, the NSSF is the gun industry. But despite the influence it wields, few people outside the industry have ever heard of it.
The NSSF is assuming the same extremist right-wing positions of the NRA—but it’s partially funded by taxpayers
The NSSF is primarily funded by the gun industry. Its annual SHOT Show, a trade show that’s restricted to commercial firearm buyers and sellers, accounts for the majority of its total annual revenue.
And whatever the money the NSSF doesn’t get from the gun industry, it gets directly from us. The NSSF has received over $90 million in government grants and contracts in the past 20 years, paid for by taxpayers.
With this ballooning revenue, the NSSF has been outspending the NRA for years—and it’s used this money to lobby against many of the most popular and commonsense gun safety measures, like background checks and raising the minimum age for purchasing AR-15s to 21.
Like the NRA, the NSSF responds to mass shootings with efforts to push its dangerous “guns everywhere” agenda
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, advocates like former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords were spurred into action. Meanwhile, the NSSF—which is based in Newtown, Connecticut—ramped up its lobbying spending and fought lawsuits brought by the families of murdered first graders.
And just a few weeks later, the NSSF joined the NRA to defeat legislation that would have made background checks standard for all gun purchases.
After the school shooting in Uvalde this year, our federal government took long-awaited action on guns to prevent similar tragedies from occurring—action which the NSSF opposed.
the NSSF talks a lot about safety, but doesn’t do much about it
The NSSF boasts about its commitment to public safety, but its “education” campaigns are just a front.
The organization claims that its Project ChildSafe program has provided more than 40 million free firearm safety kits—but it doesn’t mention that the vast majority were paid for by federal grants, and 80% of them were handed out between 2002 and 2005.
In fact, from April 2014 to March 2019, the NSSF spent just five percent of its revenue on “Safety and Education.”
And while the NSSF frequently talks about the importance of safe storage of firearms, it has actively lobbied against state and federal legislation to encourage safe storage.
The truth is, the NSSF doesn’t care enough about safety to devote real resources or to support even modest safety legislation.
The NSSF is contributing to political radicalization
The NSSF relies on hatred, division, and fear to sell its products, no matter the cost. In fact, the marketing tactics used by the gun industry in the last decade or so are increasingly responsible for not just arming, but creating, many of the individuals who have terrorized our schools and communities. Lives are cut short every day because of the NSSF’s actions.
The gun lobby’s campaign of fear and division puts gun manufacturer profits over public safety. We have them on the defensive—and we’re not letting up.
When I first started working in the gun industry, marketing campaigns focused on hunting and target shooting. But the promise of creating new customers through militarization and radicalization was just too much to pass up.
Soon young men who were unhealthily fascinated with guns became the prime target to increase gun sales. The most notable early ad campaign that honed in on this demographic was from Bushmaster, in which it “reissued Man Cards” to men who could prove their masculinity.
Today the ads are much worse, yet the NSSF still refuses to condemn the dangerous marketing campaigns that sell tactical military weapons to civilians—because these campaigns work. Gun sales have surged in recent years, and there’s no doubt the increasingly vile gun industry ads are playing a part.
The NSSF is so focused on profits that it’s embracing actions that actively encourage the downfall of our democracy, and barely anyone is paying attention. It’s time that all Americans understand the truth about our nation’s gun problem—and that means we need to understand the truth about the NSSF.
STAND UP FOR SAFETY
Americans are not as divided as it may seem. Join Giffords Gun Owners for Safety to stand in support of responsible gun ownership. We’ll share ways to connect with fellow gun owners and support our fight for a safer America.