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Newtown, CT, home of gun industry trade association National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)

Newtown, Connecticut, the site of the mass shooting of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School, is also the home of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the multi-million dollar trade association for America’s gun manufacturers and host of the annual SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show, an annual closed-to-the-public gun industry trade show held each year in January in Las Vegas.

NSSF has been the leader in working to rebrand assault rifles in general, and the AR-15 assault rifle like the one used in the Newtown tragedy in particular, as “modern sporting rifles.”

As the Violence Policy Center details in its 2011 study The Militarization of the U.S. Civilian Firearms Market:

In November 2009, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) announced that—“due to gun owners’ concerns over President-elect Obama and possible legislation regulating the Second Amendment rights of Americans”—it had placed on its website a “media resource...to help clear up much of the confusion and misinformation about so-called ‘assault weapons.’”

This was the opening salvo in the industry’s meretricious campaign to “rebrand” semiautomatic assault weapons as “modern sporting rifles.” The point of the campaign—inspired by the pummeling the industry gets for selling killing machines—is apparently that semiautomatic assault rifles are really just another sporting gun, no different from an older generation of bolt-action and low-capacity rifles.

Unfortunately for the NSSF and the industry, the widely-reported affection for semiautomatic assault rifles by extremists, drug lords, and common criminals gives the lie to this insidious “rebranding” campaign. Even worse, some within the gun industry’s own ranks apparently never got the NSSF rebranding memo. They continue to call semiautomatic assault rifles what they are—assault rifles—and even write lurid prose promoting the worst features of these guns.

For recent example, the August 2010 edition of Gun World magazine headlines “Ruger’s Mini-14 Tactical Rifle” as “‘Combat Customized’ From the Factory.” Among other outbursts of naked candor in the enthusiastic article are the following—

  • “Ruger’s Mini-14 Tactical Rifle is a version of the well established Mini-14 incorporating many of the assault rifle features that end users have being [sic] applying themselves for decades, this time straight from the factory.”

  • “Being seen over the years as a sort of ‘poor man’s assault rifle’ the Mini-14 has spawned a huge array of after-market parts that may be applied to make it more ‘assault rifle-y.’ Recently Sturm, Ruger & Co. finally decided to get into the act themselves by producing their Mini-14 Tactical Rifles.” [Bold added]

This spasm of candor is typical of the “wink and nod” game that the gun industry plays when it talks to itself and to its hard-core consumers: call them what you will—“black rifles,” “tactical rifles,” or “modern sporting rifles”—semiautomatic assault weapons are plain and simply military-style assault weapons.



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