By Larry Keane

When The New York Times tells America they publish “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” what they’re really saying is that it’s only the news that fits their narrative.

The New York Times ran a recent piece that attempted to broad-brush paint the entire firearm community as trying to do everything possible to literally get the ceiling to cave in on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The article headlined “How the A.T.F., Key to Biden’s Gun Plan, Became the NRA Whipping Boy,” used an anecdote of the floor collapsing, allegedly due to the weight of stacked paper investigations, at the ATF’s national gun-tracing center.

The article was published just weeks before the U.S. Senate is to hold a confirmation hearing on President Joe Biden’s nominee for ATF director – David Chipman. The article is full of President Biden’s gun control ideas and the undercurrent is that the firearm industry must be brought to heel. According to this article, that’s Chipman’s job, the same guy who was a paid gun control lobbyist for Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and the Giffords group by whom he is still currently employed. The article points out that Giffords began lobbying President Biden shortly after the election to nominate Chipman to be ATF director.

In communications, this is what’s called “inoculation theory.” It works just like getting a vaccination. The Times gives readers just enough information to spark a reaction and instill a predetermined thought to arise when the full-blown infection comes along.

Except, The New York Times was selective in their reporting. It wasn’t an accident or oversight. It sure wasn’t due to publication space. It was purposeful.

Accusations vs. Truth

The Times accused the “gun lobby” of blocking ATF modernizations and director confirmations. Both claims are wildly inaccurate. There hasn’t been a Senate-confirmed director at the ATF since B. Todd Jones resigned in 2015. It’s not true, however, that the “gun lobby” has blocked nominations.

NSSF supported the nomination of Michael Sullivan in 2007, when the position first required Senate confirmation. He was acting director and nominated for the permanent role by President George W. Bush. NSSF also supported the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominee, B. Todd Jones who was confirmed by the Senate and NSSF supported the nomination of Chuck Canterbury in 2017.

Accusations that the “gun lobby” is keeping ATF “outgunned” and outdated are flatly false. NSSF has worked with Congress to successfully provide resources to increase funding and staffing for both the ATF and the FBI, which runs the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). NSSF was leading the effort to transition the ATF from the stacks of paperwork the New York Times demonized to a modernized e-Forms system. It was the NSSF that urged ATF to adopt an electronic Form 4473 and to allow industry members to maintain electronic records including in the cloud.  Our work to provide ATF (and NICS) with improved resources continues.

A fully-functioning and staffed ATF and FBI-NICS is what the firearm industry needs, especially when it comes to clearing out backlogs that plague firearm sales. Last year, during the height of the gun sale surge, it was NSSF that was fighting to get more resources directed to keep up with background checks. Congressional Democrats, led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding the FBI break the law and not process background checks. The reason: there were a lot and it could be overwhelming. Instead of asking Director Wray if resources were needed, Sen. Markey wanted the system to crash.

ATF Cooperation

The New York Times writes about friction between the ATF and the “gun lobby” because the idea of conflict between the regulatory and law enforcement agency and the industry it regulates sounds intriguing. It sells papers. The truth is, well… a little more boring.

There’s a good relationship between the ATF and NSSF. There are long-standing partnerships with common goals that prove this. For more than 20 years, the ATF and NSSF have partnered to prevent illegal firearm straw purchases. It’s a campaign called Don’t Lie for the Other GuyTM. NSSF also matches ATF reward offers when firearms are stolen from retailers to bring those criminals to justice and recover those firearms before they can be criminally misused. That’s been ongoing for years and was recently made a pillar of the latest cooperative effort called Operation Secure Store®. That’s a partnership between ATF and NSSF to raise awareness within the firearm retailer community and voluntarily improve and enhance security at firearm retailers to prevent and deter thefts and robberies. These are part of the firearm industry’s Real Solutions. Safer Communities.® campaign.

That’s the truth. Had the reporters bothered to contact NSSF, they would have learned the truth. But, despite its motto, The New York Times only prints the news that supports its gun control agenda.

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