Steve Sanetti is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
How glad we all are that the roller-coaster year of 2013 is over! Beginning as it did in the awful shadow of the Newtown tragedy in December 2012, we were in the fight of our lives in the face of multiple legislative and media onslaughts. Indeed, the vice president essentially told us to capitulate to the administration’s gun-control agenda or be washed away, along with the Second Amendment, in the tidal wave of public grief.
Thankfully, with some significant exceptions at the state level where anti-gun sentiments prevailed in one-party steamrollers, logic, facts and common sense prevailed over emotions, fear and blind hostility to gun owners, lawfully owned firearms and our industry. Subsequent efforts to veto, modify or delay some of the worst of these measures, together with successful recall efforts to some vocal proponents of draconian anti-gun laws, seems to have taken the wind out of the sails of the anti-gun movement—for now.
So we launch 2014 with a sense of optimism, a feeling that they took their best shot at us and missed. Exploitation of tragedy will always be a hallmark of the anti-gun movement, but the resounding show of unity and anger at our unjustified vilification shocked even the most stalwart opponents of lawful enjoyment of firearms.
Paradoxically, this may mean a gradual continuation of the slow return of firearms sales to more normal levels. However, we’re not quite certain what the “new normal” might be, as record numbers of new firearms owners, recreational shooters, hunters and first-time buyers who purchased firearms for personal protection have been added to our ranks during the last five years.
The signature goal of NSSF and the affiliated organizations that combined forces as “Task Force 20-20” in 2008 was to increase participation in hunting and the shooting sports by 20 percent by 2014. This was a true “stretch goal”—yet, amazingly, our research on the measurable growth of a large number of hunting and recreational shooting programs seems to indicate that working together, our industry actually met that landmark goal! The challenge will be to retain those new hunters and target shooters, as well as to motivate existing participants and those who have dropped out of active participation. This will mean continued development and enhancement of range facilities (both indoor and outdoor), new range construction, continuing to enhance retail facilities to keep people coming back and continual creation and revitalization of new recreational shooting disciplines. This we are committed to do.
America’s changing demographic makeup will also be addressed in this and future years. This is a seemingly daunting task, though it must be remembered that most of us have come from immigrant ancestors. Even those who arrive without any cultural or family history of firearms ownership or enjoyment of the shooting sports can become lifetime hunters and recreational shooters through programs like NSSF’s First Shots® and a careful introduction and nurturing into our sports by friendly mentors. We will all throw ourselves into this task with great anticipation and sincere hopes of success.
As ammunition purchasers realize that ammunition and components are gradually becoming more available on retailers’ shelves, the artificial ammunition shortage will abate, as the hoarding mentality of many shooters returns to normal expectations of product availability. With more ammunition available, expect to see more shooters returning to the ranges and enjoying afternoons afield, whether hunting or just plinking and passing on family traditions to new generations.
It is undeniable that modern sporting rifles are here to stay, and even though we’ve never seen more manufacturers of them, market specialization has made a wide variety of “pre-accessorized” models available to suit every personal preference and pocketbook. Add to this the huge variety of accessories available for those already owning these hugely popular rifles, and it’s a safe bet that we will continue to see more and more of these firearms on the range and in the hunting fields.
So, 2014 is shaping up to be an exciting year—different, with changing market expectations, but still one with a bright outlook for the industry and devotees of America’s shooting sports and outdoor traditions.