This is a slightly abbreviated version of the annual State of the Industry speech delivered by NSSF CEO Steve Sanetti at SHOT Show 2019 in Las Vegas on Jan. 23:

“We face perhaps the most serious challenges our industry has ever faced. No longer do we face dispassionate debate on various forms of proposed gun controls, regulations, or their actual effectiveness in reducing violent crime, which is something we all want. We now face an onslaught of name-calling, virtue signaling, and identity politics, where those who differ with us don’t just disagree—they despise. The urban and suburban public’s ignorance of our way of life, and the fact that the perpetrators of this violence are rarely available to suffer the consequences of their terrible crimes, lead many to need a scapegoat and a cause to give meaning to the unthinkable.

“This is surely a very human emotion. But just as surely, it is itself a terrible wrong. It is wrong because none of us have, in our lawful sales, responsible ownership, safe use, and secure storage of firearms, committed these crimes. It is wrong because it destroys the bedrock concept of personal responsibility for violent behavior. It is wrong because we are the ones who have done the most to prevent the criminal misuse of our products through programs that enhance the effectiveness of retail background checks, distribute tens of millions of free gun-safety kits and locks that have helped reduce firearms accidents to record lows, partner with ATF to stop straw purchases, and help retailers secure guns from thieves.

“Those in the cities and suburbia who clamor that we must ‘do something’ to stop criminal misuse of firearms know nothing of what we are doing to prevent it, and precious little about our products or the legitimate uses to which they are put by millions of law-abiding Americans. Fear is a powerful emotion—it blocks out rational thought. And those who would exploit fear know this all too well.

“Powerful, wealthy forces, combined with a willing and equally complacent urban-based media, have dropped all pretext of objectivity. We now see financial institutions, religious groups, and universities and their students allied in an all-out attack on guns and anyone associated with them. Clearly, we are now David to their Goliath. It is they who have declared war on all that we believe.

“This is a struggle in which we have no choice but to prevail. And we will prevail, because firearms ownership by responsible citizens is enshrined in our Constitution and practiced every day by more than 100 million firearms owners. We are resolved to not let our many good works go unnoticed or wrongly credited to others, and we will not be defined by others. We’re embarking on an unprecedented effort to get out our positive messages about our industry across the country. Using all the tools available to us, we will fight the shaming and name-calling being thrown against us, with the truth that we are a critical part of the solution. We have effective programs in place to combat the misuse of our products, and if America is genuinely serious about ‘doing something’ that actually works to make America safer, persons of good will should see through their bias against America’s firearms industry and join us.

“We will need all the resources we have in order to prevail. It will be an expensive, multi-year effort to retake our good name and to restore our reputation as a positive and knowledgeable force for good. We must counter the fear that motivates people. Above all, we must connect to the younger generations and their belief that the highest emotion is tolerance for different lifestyles and values.

“We ask for nothing more than respect for our traditions that may differ from theirs. We ask for that same tolerance and appreciation for the liberty and rights and freedoms our great American way of life and laws have provided, so long as we harm no one. We ask that they acknowledge our experiences with family and friends and neighbors that bring us together, and for an honest appreciation that ours is a nation of diverse interests, activities, and lifestyles, which include our own.”