In response to stagnation in the traditional white male market, the gun industry and National Rifle Association (NRA) are now targeting Blacks and Latinos as potential new gun buyers according to a new study from the Violence Policy Center (VPC).
The 39-page report, How the Firearms Industry and NRA Market Guns to Communities of Color, documents efforts begun in 2015 that have only intensified over time. The VPC report reveals the scope of this marketing effort as evidenced by: gun industry marketing studies and related materials from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF, the trade association for the firearms industry); articles in gun industry publications, advertisements, videos, and social media; and, NRA articles, online programming, and related materials.
In its marketing efforts to communities of color, the gun industry frequently focuses on the self-defense use of firearms, despite the fact that guns are rarely used to stop crimes or kill criminals and are far more likely to be used in homicides, suicides, or fatal unintentional shootings. Recognizing that Blacks and Latinos are already disproportionately impacted by lethal gun violence, these efforts can only increase death and injury in these communities.
VPC Executive Director and study author Josh Sugarmann states, “Much like the tobacco industry’s search for replacement smokers, the gun industry is seeking replacement shooters. Along with the hope of increased gun sales, a corollary goal of this effort is to turn more Blacks and Latinos, who historically support gun violence prevention measures, into pro-gun advocates for future political battles.”
How the Firearms Industry and NRA Market Guns to Communities of Color traces the origin of this coordinated marketing effort to the 2015 NSSF “Industry Summit,” the theme of which was “diversity.” After the event, an NSSF press release lauded the “cohesive effort across the industry as a whole to address this subject and innovate change…[W]e’re about to experience a ground-swell shift in that attitude.” Or as the head of NSSF boasted, “What a difference this is from just a few years ago when the industry was lamenting that it was becoming stale, male and pale.”
How the Firearms Industry and NRA Market Guns to Communities of Color offers a detailed look at NSSF, firearms industry, and NRA marketing efforts, including:
■ Examples of magazine ads from gun manufacturers Glock, KEL-TEC, Smith & Wesson, and Springfield Armory targeting Blacks and Latinos, including an ad showing a Black man looking askance as he pumps gas into his car at a filling station. The ad warns, “It’s a jungle out there” and urges the reader to “Protect yourself with the all new 9mm HELLCAT from Springfield Armory.”
■ Marketing presentations offered at NSSF industry-only events, such as “Diversity: The Next Big Opportunity.” At the event, the speaker promised, “Diversity is the next area of success for our industry” and that it would lead to “new shooters, and new gun owners, and new Second Amendment advocates….”
■ NSSF marketing publications (some publicly available, others limited to NSSF members) with titles such as: Changing Faces of the Shooting Sports: Meeting the Needs of an Increasingly Diverse Customer Base; A Hispanic Market Study: Firearms and the Shooting Sports; and, Understanding Diversity in Hunting and Shooting Sports.
■ NRA marketing efforts, which have primarily involved two approaches: presenting Black and Latino spokespeople in its public education and marketing efforts; and, publicizing groups, as the NSSF states, “whose memberships are considered non-traditional.” In addition, labeling itself America’s “oldest civil rights organization,” NRA leadership have promoted the organization’s “diversity” activities in its official publications.
■ NSSF and NRA efforts to increase gun sales over the past year exploiting the COVID-19 crisis. Citing the bump in sales, in October 2020, NRA publications asserted that no longer was “gun ownership…merely the preserve of white men” and promised that “these alterations will yield a change in our political debate.”