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COMMENTARY: Gun groups working for safer communities

Last week, Nevadans and the nation heard from the Democratic presidential candidates about their plans for gun control. Unfortunately, these plans will only trample on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans while failing to address the real causes of criminal violence. This rush to “do something” misses the intent of actually making our communities safer, which is a goal we all share.

What Nevada and the nation didn’t hear are the real solutions to make our communities safer that the National Shooting Sports Foundation, on behalf of the men and women of the firearms industry, is already working on.

For example, the firearms industry is making sure that all firearm owners know and have the means to secure their firearms when not in use. Through our Project ChildSafe program, now in its 20th year, the foundation has partnered with more than 15,000 police departments, including those in Nevada, to distribute more than 38 million firearms safety education kits that include a free gun lock. For decades, gun manufacturers have included a gun lock with each new firearm sold. To date, more than 100 million free gun locks have been provided to gun owners, helping to make a real difference. Accidental deaths involving firearms are one-third of 1 percent of all unintentional deaths, the lowest level since record keeping began in 1903. Unintentional firearms fatalities for children fell 56 percent over the past 20 years, at a low of 3.3 percent. We continue to strive to bring that number to zero.

In addition, for nearly 20 years the firearms industry has partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to prevent illegal “straw” purchases through our Don’t Lie for the Other Guy initiative. This program educates retailers to identify and stop the illegal purchase of firearms and educates the public that if an individual attempts to buy a firearm for someone who can’t buy one for themselves or isn’t the true recipient of the firearm, they risk 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. The ATF has called the Don’t Lie partnership vital to their efforts to combat violent crime involving the misuse of firearms.

That ATF partnership extends to the foundation’s Operation Secure Store program to help federally licensed firearms retailers improve security and prevent thefts and robberies. We know the criminals who steal firearms endanger our communities by victimizing these store owners and putting stolen guns on the streets. So the foundation matches ATF reward offers that lead to the arrest and prosecution of these criminals who would prey on firearms retailers and our communities. The ATF reports that burglaries and stolen guns from retailers are down more than 20 percent in the past year.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation isn’t afraid of the hard discussions. That’s why we partnered with the largest suicide prevention organization to provide suicide prevention toolkits to firearms retailers and ranges. These kits help retailers and range operators know the warning signs and the resources to intervene before a moment of crisis. This allows for a discussion of safe firearms storage, available resources and an opportunity to save lives.

Our industry brought the instant background check at the point of purchase into reality. It is critical that our background checks are accurate, reliable and updated frequently. Our firearms retailers, as the first line of defense against guns getting into the wrong hands, rely upon this system to be accurate. That’s why we’ve championed the FixNICS campaign that has changed the law in 16 states and at the federal level to make the background check system work. Through our efforts, we increased the submission of disqualifying mental health records by 241 percent, from just 1.5 million in 2013 for more than 5.6 million today.

The firearms industry is working on real solutions to make our communities safer. We can find common ground while respecting law-abiding gun owners and the Second Amendment.

Joe Bartozzi is the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade association.

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