New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent executive order aimed at members of the firearms industry purports to reduce the criminal misuse of firearms. Members of the firearms industry, like all Americans, share the goal of reducing the criminal misuse of firearms. Gov. Murphy’s executive order, however, is off target and demonstrates that he is seriously uninformed about the state and federal laws and regulations that govern the sale of our industry’s products; as well as longstanding industry practices and initiatives that serve to help ensure that firearms do not fall into the wrong hands. Members of the industry fund and support campaigns and initiatives conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, their trade association, that are part of what we at NSSF call Real Solutions, Safer Communities.
For example, the governor’s order would require retailers to take steps to prevent sales to prohibited persons. We agree. That is why our industry conceived of and supports the federal law that requires retailers to conduct a background check before they can sell a gun to ensure the buyer is not prohibited from owning a firearm. In New Jersey, the check is done by the state police. New Jersey’s firearms retailers rely on these checks to be accurate, so they do not sell a gun to a criminal.
Ensuring background checks are accurate is why our industry launched the FixNICS campaign in 2013. Our efforts have resulted in changes to the laws in 16 states to require those states to submit disqualifying records to the background check system, which those states hadn’t been doing. Our effort served as the model for the bipartisan Fix NICS Act signed into law by President Trump last year.
The governor also wants to stop illegal straw purchases of firearms. So do we. That’s why for nearly 20 years we have partnered with ATF in an anti-straw purchasing campaign called Don’t Lie for the Other Guy that helps to educate retailers to be better able to identify and prevent illegal strawman purchases. It also warns the public that it’s a serious felony to buy a gun for someone else who can’t or doesn’t want to put their name on federally mandated background check forms. We have run the Don’t Lie campaign in the Garden State, even though under New Jersey law it is impossible to straw purchase a firearm because consumers there must first obtain a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card from their local police chief and undergo a background checking that includes providing their fingerprints.
Like members of our industry, the governor is concerned about the theft of firearms. If the governor had reached out to us, we would have told him about Operation Secure Store, which is another joint industry-ATF initiative to prevent the theft of firearms. This program promotes improved security and anti-theft measures to deter theft and robberies and matches ATF reward offers to track down and convict criminals who steal guns.
The governor also appears to be unaware that the state police already require retailers to have security measures in place.
NSSF’s Real Solutions also includes our Project ChildSafe initiative that has distributed free firearms safety kits, including 38 million gun locks, through 15,000 law enforcement agencies. That includes New Jersey’s police departments.
Real Solutions does more, like our partnership with the largest suicide prevention group to help reach the goal of reducing suicides by 20 percent by 2025.
Firearms retailers are on the front lines helping to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands. They are part of the solution; they are not the cause of the problem as Gov. Murphy wrongly believes.
The governor should call me. I’d be happy to educate him further about real solutions that will make communities safer.
Joe Bartozzi , of Newtown, Conn., is the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade association.