Too often in America, lawmakers tackle our society’s problems with a “one-size-fits-all” approach that sounds like common sense but results in unintended consequences. America’s firearm industry recognizes these ill-conceived ideas burden businesses and don’t address the actual issue of public safety.
Most recently, Congressman Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.) announced the introduction of the Gun Theft Prevention Act. This bill would implement several new regulations for Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs), the most substantive of which sets overly broad requirements for firearms retailers to install expensive surveillance and gun storage cabinets for all their inventory. Punishment for failing to meet these broadly defined and onerous standards could include suspension, fines or outright revocation of a shop’s license, putting them out of business and ending their livelihood.
Congressman Morelle’s bill would make a burglarized firearms retailer a victim twice over by allowing them to be sued if a gun stolen from their business is later misused in a crime that results in a death.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) strongly opposes this legislation because it is a direct attack on small businesses. Forcing all firearms retailers to meet expensive “one-size-fits-all” security requirements is unduly burdensome and unnecessary. High-tech solutions are an expense that some national chain-sellers might afford, but small “mom-and-pop” stores would be forced to close if this bill is signed into law. Effective alternative solutions exist, including roll-down cages and smash-resistant display cages. Security solutions are unique to each location and should be tailored to meet individual circumstances.
Business owners in Rep. Morelle’s district are speaking out against the bill because of the damage it would cause to their small businesses. In an interview with a local news affiliate, the owner of Allstar Tactical, Mike Centola, described his concern over vague legislative language. Ambiguous regulations could leave small-business owners vulnerable to misinterpreting and possibly violating laws when trying to do the right thing. Centola is also rightfully concerned about the liability exposure the bill places on business owners saying "In the end, we do the best we can, but if a firearm is stolen and used illegally, why should that be our fault? Put the blame on the person who actually broke the law."
So what is the firearms industry doing to help reduce the number of guns stolen from gun shops during a burglary? The answer is a lot. NSSF is partnering with the ATF on an initiative called Operation Secure Store that helps raise awareness among firearms retailers about the risk of becoming a burglary victim and educating them on ways they can make their store more secure to deter a burglary. Through Operation Secure Store, FFLs have access to continuing educational instruction, including ATF regional security seminars, so they understand and have access to security solutions that will be the most effective in protecting their businesses. Additionally, the National Shooting Sports Foundation matches ATF reward offers for gun store thieves.
This collaborative approach is proving successful. Burglaries of firearms retailers fell 26 percent in 2018. Former ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon credited the firearms industry for real solutions for safer communities. Other legislation to address criminals committing these thefts includes the bipartisan FFL Protection Act which would strengthen penalties for those who steal guns from retailers. The bill is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest law enforcement group in America. There are better ways to address the challenge than one that punishes small businesses. Instead, let’s punish the criminals.