Degrees Of Responsibility

To the Editor:

In his reply to Ms Richardson published last week, Mr Sanetti wrote: “Had [Mrs Lanza] met her responsibility to keep her lawfully purchased firearms properly secured, inaccessible to her deeply troubled son who she knew to be at risk, this tragedy would never have occurred.” This assertion of irresponsible storage is plausible but—given that the report of the state police investigation has not yet been released—speculative. It is likewise plausible but speculative that Ms Lanza is a poster child for the convergent success of two marketing campaigns for which Mr Sanetti and his organization are responsible.

When he launched the NSSF’s Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR) campaign in 2009, Mr Sanetti  said of the MSR (NSSF-speak for  AR-15): “We must recognize that an attack on one gun is ultimately an attack on all guns. We are all brothers in the fraternity of shooting. If we hold the line and the modern sporting firearm does indeed become the most popular firearm, as it's well on its way to becoming, it will be that much harder to ban, because there won't just be a few million, but many, many millions of American citizens legitimately involved in shooting activities with these kinds of rifles. We will then form a power base that no one will be able to defeat.”

MSRs were indeed well on their way to delivering big gains to the gun and ammo industry. According to NSSF data, 60 percent of MSR owners owned multiple MSRs, and 66 percent used magazines with capacities of 20-30 rounds. MSR owners fired on average 1,056 rounds per year, and 10 percent more than 3,000 rounds. Seventy percent shot at targets at distances between 100 and 1,000 yards, and 35 percent in parties of 2-5 shooters. The only softness in the MSR numbers was gender disparity: 99 percent male owners versus 1 percent female.

Mr Sanetti attacked the gender disparity by expanding the NSSF’s First Shots program, which recruits non-shooters and lapsed shooters to target shooting with free shooting sessions, with grants to market target shooting to women, families, and youth as a family recreational alternative to hiking, boating, and swimming. In 2009, Mr Sanetti said: “These grants will help shooting range managers implement creative marketing strategies to introduce newcomers and reactivate former shooters to lifetime activities that are fun and can be shared with family and friends.” By 2012, female target shooters had increased by 45.5 percent, and 49 percent of attendees at First Shots rifle “seminars” were female, with an average age of 41.7.

Another successful NSSF campaign has been its Washington lobbying initiative to ease restrictions on international sales of MSRs. One of the beneficiaries has been Mr Sanetti’s company—Sturm, Ruger & Co. of Southport—whose Mini -14 semiautomatic carbine Anders Breivik selected for his massacre of 69 people, 55 of whom were teenagers, on the Norwegian island of Utøya in 2011. According to leaks as yet unconfirmed by police, Ms Lanza’s son aimed to top Breivik’s score with his mother’s Bushmaster.

Robert Hutchinson

Split Rock Road, Newtown              March 27, 2013

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