By Larry Keane
Firearm retailers are proving to be a critical touchpoint for community safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Final numbers for firearm sales are still pending, but by all accounts, firearm sales shattered patterns. Americans are concerned, they’re taking responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. This is where the critical link of the local retailers becomes clear. Local gun stores that have been packed recently are also where these gun buyers, many of them first-time owners, are learning about safe firearm ownership and storage in their homes.
Community Safety Experts
Many retailers are reporting overwhelmingly, first-time buyers are crowding their gun counters. They’re full of questions and they’re learning that local gun store owners and employees are their community’s best resource for education and guidance on safe firearm handling, secure storage and proper usage. For example, among the clamor of her packed store, Jane Havens, manager of Calamity Jane’s Firearms & Fine Shoes in Hudson Falls, N.Y., described the influx of customers at her store, “Safety is a necessity. The sales process revolves around making sure the firearm is a good fit, and then emphasizing proper handling and storage. The more we can educate new owners, the safer everyone will be. Our customers truly appreciate that.”
Havens also added she is voluntarily taking additional steps to ensure customer health safety too, by limiting in-store crowd size and following CDC health guidelines.
Safe firearm education and guidance provided by staff can make all the difference. NSSF has partnered with retailers to promote greater firearm safety through our Real SolutionsSM initiative, including specific efforts like Project ChildSafe®, Operation Secure Store® and increased suicide prevention awareness. These efforts are having an undeniably significant impact. Gun owners have taken heed, practicing safe firearm handling and storage and passing on the knowledge to new owners as well. Regarding first-time customers, Havens added, “Our calm, controlled presence and our focus on safety guidance helps to alleviate fear, establish confidence and restore peace of mind. We want to help make a fear-driven market safer by making it a confidence-driven market, and our new customers help make that distinction.”
Historic Safety Numbers
Continued safety efforts from firearm retailers and industry members are making a difference. The good news is that there is a record level of firearm ownership across the country, with more than 100 million law-abiding Americans now owning a gun. The more gratifying number however is that there was a record low number of unintentional firearm fatalities in the country last year. In a recently released report containing the latest data from the National Safety Council, the 2018 Injury Facts Report showed there were 458 unintentional firearm fatalities – the lowest number on record since the data was first tracked in 1903.
“As an industry that prioritizes firearm safety, it is extremely good news to see this record decline in gun-related accidents,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF’s President and CEO. “It’s gratifying to know that our industry’s gun safety efforts, including our long-running Project ChildSafe firearm safety education program, are contributing to helping save lives.”
Each visit to a local gun store is an opportunity. Whether shopping for a new firearm or just picking up some targets or ammunition, it’s an opportunity to befriend a fellow customer, chat about shooting or practicing at the range or even providing a small safety tip they might not have heard before. Regardless, these important ongoing safety efforts have a meaningful impact on the entire gun-owning community.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.