Speaking to thousands of gun owners and industry professionals, the president of the firearms industry's trade association -- which is headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut -- for the first time addressed the massacre of schoolchildren in his group's hometown, saying it has left the arms industry "misunderstood."
"Who among us has not been moved by the unspeakable tragedy that was inflicted by a deranged man upon the children of Newtown, Connecticut, our very home at the NSSF?" National Shooting Sports Foundation president Steve Sanetti said Tuesday evening at a sprawling firearms industry convention here. "What can possibly heal the wounds, silence the anguished outcries, and make rational discourse on such a heartfelt topic occur?"
Sanetti said he agreed with everyone who was revolted by the "senseless, evil act," but said those who turned on the gun industry in what he called a "clamor to 'do something'" have misplaced their wrath.
"We all must recognize that those who don't agree with us share in our desire to rid the world of such monstrous acts; and they must recognize that we are not the evildoers. Ours is a responsible industry that makes and sells lawful products to law-abiding citizens," he said.
As the firearms industry's trade association, the NSSF has actively opposed gun control measures, including a limit on magazine size, but with a lower profile than the National Rifle Association.
Sanetti was speaking on the first night of the annual SHOT Show, an enormous gun industry gathering in Las Vegas, Nevada run by the NSSF that attracts dozens of arms-related vendors and tens of thousands of attendees.
Housed in the sprawling Sands Expo Convention Center, in booth after booth this week firearms companies are hawking their latest wares, from new laser sights to grenade launchers and hundreds of semi-automatic rifles. And despite the generally jovial mood of both the gun sellers and potential customers, Tuesday there was a slight undercurrent of concern -- mostly overheard in snippets of conversation -- over how the government may restrict gun purchasing in response to the Sandy Hook massacre.
In that case, authorities say that in mid-December 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and gunned down 20 first-graders before taking his own life. Lanza, who killed his mother at the nearby home they shared with a .22 caliber rifle before driving to the school, used a semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle to kill the children and a pistol to kill himself, according to officials.
Later today President Obama is expected to unveil what the White House described as "concrete" proposals to curb gun violence in the wake of that shooting. Vice President Biden had previously met with lawmakers and titans of the gun industry -- including representatives from the NSSF -- to deliver recommendations to the president.
The same day Sanetti made his remarks, New York became the first state to pass a new gun control law since the shooting, and it is the toughest in the nation.
The new law, called the New York Safe Act, strengthens an ban on semi-automatic rifles, commonly referred to as assault-style weapons, and requires background checks for ammunition and gun buyers, even in private sales, in addition to other regulations.