The liberal Center for American Progress, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, is again telling America that there just aren’t enough gun laws. What they’re really saying is they’re hopping mad that no one is paying attention to their calls to eliminate firearms from America.
The group published a missive denouncing the firearm industry as an “overlooked player.” The authors are all from the Center’s Gun Violence Prevention research team. Of course, the Center’s vice president is Igor Volsky, author of the book "Guns Down America," which also denounces lawful firearm ownership. The policy recommendations put forth by the Center are wide ranging, from chastising the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) for not exceeding their legal mandate to calling for an outright ban on reloading ammunition at home.
The recommendations are a series of ill-informed half truths that does more to reveal the angst of a group losing their following than to propel policy debate. So, here are a few.
In 2020 thus far, more than 12.1 million background checks have been completed by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System for the sale of firearm. Every month this year has exceeded the total of the same month in 2019. Since March, each month has set a record as the strongest-ever for gun sales. Between March and May alone, 2.5 million people bought a firearm for the very first time. Of those, 58 percent were African American men and women. Forty percent were women. In an NSSF survey of likely voters in 18 swing states, more than half opposed gun bans and believed that the primary reason for firearm ownership is home and self-defense. The number of gun-rights supporters more than doubled the number of those whose support waned, and nearly three-quarters said they would support political candidates who embrace true gun safety and education.
This must be infuriating to Volsky, who demanded in February that the firearm industry stop selling guns to women and minorities, calling it “incredibly dangerous” in a series of tweets.
Grasping at Straws
This is a tectonic shift for groups like Center for American Progress. Their echo chamber might seem louder because it is growing emptier. Those 2.5 million people who never bought a gun until this year were the millions in the middle. Until March, the debate on gun ownership was rhetorical. It didn’t have a personal impact. There was no skin in the game.
That’s changed. Those millions in the middle chose a side. They walked into a firearm retailer and literally bought into where their beliefs lie. The question went from rhetorical to existential. The overwhelming reason those 2.5 million people bought a gun for the first time was to protect themselves and their loved ones. It is reflected in the firearms they bought. The most popular firearm is the defensive handgun. That’s followed by shotguns and modern sporting rifles.
What They Want
Instead of putting forth policy recommendations for where America is, the Center is hardly living up to its name. They’re not advocating progress. Their ideas are just the opposite. They’re regressive and punishing. Their proposals demonstrate just how irrelevant they’ve become.
The authors claim, “The gun industry in the United States is effectively unregulated. The laws governing the operation of these businesses are porous and weak.”
Volsky, the Center’s vice president, tried to make a similar claim in a 2019 Time column, which National Shooting Sports Foundation thoroughly debunked. There are more than 20,000 laws on the books between Congress and the states. Three hundred of those are considered “relevant.” The firearm industry was instrumental in some of those, including the bipartisan Fix NICS Act and the industry’s FIX NICS campaign, to get all adjudicated disqualifying background checks to the FBI. The industry wants the background check system to work as intended.
It’s also why NSSF advocates for increased funding for the ATF. Instead, U.S. Senate gun control advocates wrote a letter to the FBI and the ATF urging them to ignore federal law and discontinue background checks for gun sales instead of giving them the resources they need.
The authors want a one-size-fits-all mandatory storage law for all firearm retailers. They ignore that what works for the bog-box retailer might not work for the mom-and-pop shop, which comprises the bulk of licensed firearm retailers. They also ignore that many gun thefts are smash-and-grab thefts, where thieves steal vehicles, plow them into storefronts or through the sides of buildings, and are off in a matter of seconds or minutes before police can respond. They also ignore the work the industry is doing with the ATF through Operation Secure Store® to educate retailers on voluntary options to boost security. Mandatory storage laws are a guise for forcing small retailers out of business through unaffordable and overbearing regulations.
There’s more. The Center for American Progress wants to adjust the National Firearms Act tax stamp to keep pace with inflation, which would mean the $200 tax stamp for a suppressor would skyrocket to $3,900. They would also redefine “firearms” to fit neatly into a class of banned firearms, adding to them those with pistol braces and firearms with birds-head grips. They contend manufacturers should predict that law-abiding customers would suddenly become would-be criminals and illegally use these firearms for criminal activity. In fact, they haven’t and they don’t. Missing from the authors’ analysis is proof to their supposed problem.
Ban on Hobbyists
It doesn’t end there. The Center for American Progress believes that progress runs through government overreach right into private homes. The authors stoke fears of “ghost guns,” claiming hobbyists who build their own firearms for their personal use are engaged in under-the-radar criminal activity. They argue that unfinished firearms should be treated as complete guns, but don’t distinguish at what point a billet would be considered a firearm. It can only be surmised they contend that all metal ore must be regulated as potential firearms.
That might sound ridiculous, but that’s what they’re arguing when they go on to say that home reloaders must be regulated too. They argue that since there aren’t laws to know what people are doing in their homes with personal time and personal property, such laws must be created. In their estimate, American rights aren’t right at all, unless closely scrutinized, counted, categorized, licensed, and regulated.
They extend the same argument to home-built suppressors, ignoring that each one already must be regulated by the ATF, complete with a background check and serialized according to ATF regulation standards. These are the same standards for which they argue for home-built firearms.
CPSC and PLCAA
All of this shows the true intent. Regulation isn’t enough for the Center for American progress. Elimination is the goal. That’s why they also argue that the industry should be under the oversight of the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC), instead of the ATF. The CPSC was created protect the public against “unreasonable risk or deaths associated the consumer products.” This is a back-door way of saying that since firearms can cause death, they must be banned. Way back in the 1970s when Congress set up the CPSC, it expressly exempted firearms and ammunition products because it feared that the CPSC would be used to advance gun control.
The Center falsely claims the firearm industry is immune to legal action. It’s just not true. Manufacturers are responsible for product liability. The Center’s advocacy for the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) is to expose the industry to frivolous lawsuits for the consequences of crimes committed by an individual. It’s akin to holding Ford responsible for deaths caused by drunk driving.
Center for American Progress isn’t concerned about gun safety. They’re pushing for gun elimination. It only takes a quick look as who pays the bills, including gun control advocates the Carnegie Corporation of New York, George Soros’s Foundation to Promote Open Society, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bill and Melinda Gates, Google, Jeff Bezos’s Amazon, J.P Morgan, and Bank of America, all of which support gun control and gun bans.
It’s not progress they want. It’s the complete elimination of guns from America.
Lawrence Keane is the Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry trade association.