In a move that has sent political waves through Capitol Hill, the Department of Justice has awarded millions of tax dollars to the gun industry’s top lobbying group to help promote firearms safety with young shooters and to fund locks for all new gun purchases.
The nation’s top law enforcement agency granted the National Shooting Sports Foundation $2.4 million to “provide firearm safety education messaging and free gun locks through the NSSF’s Project Childsafe program to communities throughout the country.” The NSSF won the grant after a competitive process, and the program is funded for two years.
“We thank the Department of Justice for its recognition of this important program,” NSSF President Steve Sanetti said in a Sept. 14 statement. “We’ll work to build on previous efforts and further raise awareness of the simple precautions gun owners can take to store firearms securely when not in use.”
The Project Childsafe program has been part of the NSSF’s consumer eduction platform since 1999, teaming with local law enforcement, conservation groups and gun ranges to hand out over 34 million free gun locks and printed materials that promote safe handling and storage of firearms, including “Firearms Responsibility In The Home,” “10 Tips For Firearms Safety” and videos on how to talk to kids about guns and shooting range etiquette.
For about 10 years during the George W. Bush administration, the NSSF had been assisting the Justice Department to implement its firearms safety lock program. That grant ended during the Obama administration.
But the renewal of the NSSF grant didn’t come without opposition from gun control groups who in a last minute effort to derail the funding petitioned the DOJ to keep the gun industry out of the process.
“Whatever good might be done by Project Childsafe is vastly outweighed by the harm NSSF does in lobbying for reckless gun laws,” The Coalition To Stop Gun Violence said in a statement. “No taxpayer in America should have to foot the bill for a profit-focused lobby looking to improve its public image.”
The gun control group went on to call the NSSF a “radical lobby” that has fought White House efforts to increase gun restrictions.
Firearms industry analyst and author of The Future of The Gun Frank Miniter argued in Forbes it’s about time the Obama administration teamed up with gun owners to get the word out on safe handling.
“I often made the point that if the Obama administration would just work with America’s 100-million-plus gun owners, instead of treating them like enemies, America could become an even safer place,” Miniter wrote. “It’s marvelous to see, perhaps, dare I say it, a thaw in the way the Obama administration treats gun-rights groups and those who chose to own guns.”
And despite the gun control pushback, the feds went ahead with the NSSF grant.
“Programs like Project ChildSafe work because proper storage of firearms when not in use is the number one way to help prevent firearm accidents, misuse and theft,” Sanetti said. “We’re honored to be recognized by the DOJ in our efforts to promote that message and going the extra step to make a means of safe storage readily available to gun owners.”