By Michael O. Fifer
Southport, CT –-(Ammoland.com)- I am proud of Sen. Kelly Ayotte for her courage in voting for legislation that would address the criminal misuse of firearms by prohibited persons.
She could have taken the easy way out and voted for ineffective bills that sounded good to the media and anti-gun crowd, but which would not have addressed the root causes and which would not have prevented another Sandy Hook tragedy.
Instead, she resisted severe political pressure and did the right thing, voting for measures that would actually help and voting against measures that just sounded good, but which would not help. She should not be attacked by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his big money, but instead should be applauded for her courage and sense of responsibility.
New Hampshire citizens are lucky to have Sen. Ayotte representing them.
Sen. Ayotte helped introduce and voted for the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act, which improves the existing background check system, addresses mental health gaps in the criminal justice system, boosts resources to improve school safety, and criminalizes gun trafficking and straw purchases.
Also, given the clear connection between mental illness and the mass tragedies at Newtown, Aurora and Virgina Tech, she co-sponsored and voted for the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act.
Sen. Ayotte, like all of us, wants to find solutions that will stop criminals and those who are mentally ill from obtaining firearms. These two acts she voted for would address both the problem of access to firearms by prohibited persons and the root causes of the criminal misuse of firearms, all while helping preserve the Second Amendment.
By way of background, federal firearms licensees rely upon the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, commonly referred to as “NICS,” when conducting background checks on would-be firearms transferees. Of course, the NICS check is only as good as the data supporting it, which are woefully inadequate. For example, 18 states have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records to the NICS database. Worse yet, 13 states have submitted fewer than 10 mental health records. Until states populate the NICS database with appropriate data, the existing system will remain broken and prohibited persons will be able to purchase firearms.
The goal of the federal government should be to encourage states to provide all their prohibiting records to NICS so that background checks can serve their intended purpose of preventing the transfer of firearms to prohibited persons. Notably, the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act, which Sen. Ayotte supported, would have required states to submit relevant mental health information to NICS, and it would have put some muscle into the mandate by conditioning federal grant money for states on whether they submitted mental health records to NICS. Our industry supports this legislation as part of its “Fix NICS” initiative to improve background checks.
This is not just a philosophical debate. American citizens continually cite the poor economy as their chief concern, and companies in the United States that manufacture, distribute and sell firearms, ammunition and hunting equipment employ almost 100,000 people in the country and generate an additional 111,000 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. In 2012 alone, the firearms and ammunition industry was responsible for nearly $32 billion in total economic activity in the United States. The significant contributions these companies are making to our nation's economic recovery should not be sacrificed to unnecessary and ineffective restrictions and bans. Sen. Ayotte recognizes this important distinction and she is to be applauded for her clarity of thought and purpose.
Sen. Ayotte is a former prosecutor and she cares. She knows that details matter in legislation, not just clever, feel-good titles. And she knows that you have to address the root causes of problems or you will just face them again in the future. Sen. Ayotte is to be commended for taking the more difficult path, but it is the path that will make a real difference. She is after real reforms to make our communities safer, and we should all support her.
Michael O. Fifer is president and CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc., which employs 1,300 people in New Hampshire.