Three miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, a white Colonial-style building stands about 50 feet back from the road, an unassuming presence in a town that never got much attention until now. On a recent day, a security guard got out of a parked car at the end of the driveway and said he’d received instructions to turn away anyone who didn’t work in the building. It wasn't hard to see why his employers might have hired him. In what appears to be a bizarre coincidence, the people working inside were among the country's most adamant champions of the kinds of weapons and ammunition that Adam Lanza used to kill 26 children and adults just down the road last week.
The Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, or NSSF, is the nation's premier gun manufacturers trade association, and in recent years the group has concentrated on marketing military-style assault weapons of the kind used by Lanza, James Holmes and other mass murderers. In the last decade, as the national interest in hunting has declined, gun manufacturers have increasingly relied on the sale of high-powered rifles, capable of killing many people in seconds. Behind the scenes, the NSSF has done much of the work of pitching those products to politicians, the media and gun buyers.
Doug Painter, a former NSSF president, delivered a pitch characteristic of the NSSF’s folksy approach in a video released by the group in 2009, a year when many gun-owners were worried that the newly Democratic White House would try to take away their weapons.
Holding up the same kind of rifle that Adam Lanza would eventually use to commit mass murder, Painter asked the camera, “Am I gonna trade in Ol’ Betsy for one of these?” He answered himself, “Maybe not. But there’s a more important point to consider. Anti-gun folks insist on labeling these rifles as ‘bad guns,’ as opposed to more traditional-looking ‘good guns.’ How can any inanimate object be considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’?”
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