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Who will speak for the industry?

It's a remarkable time for the firearm industry. There may never have been a time when the industry was under so many attacks from so many directions.

First, there's the big-city lawsuits. Atlanta dealt the industry a back-handed slap in the face with its lawsuit on the last day of the SHOT Show. The message from the mayor was clear, "Thank you for your money you spent here. Now I want more."

The Georgia legislature and governor countered with a law prohibiting such lawsuits in the state. That moved the battle to Capitol Hill.

Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) introduced legislation that would block cities and states from filing lawsuits against the industry. "This is a national issue and it cries out for a national remedy," said Barr. He characterized the big-city lawsuit mayors as those, "who in an effort to disguise their own inadequate responses to the crime in our communities are looking for a scapegoat."

Barr knows he faces tough opposition. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced she will propose legislation that would guarantee cities the fight to sue the industry.

"If local governments believe the fight against crime is being hampered because of a mass proliferation of guns, I believe it is in the national interest to allow them to take action in court," said Boxer.

Singing off the same sheet of music are Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). They introduced the "Gun Industry Accountability Act" which would clear the way for lawsuits against the industry.

Also on Capitol Hill, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) have resurrected the anti-high-capacity magazine crusade. They want to stop the selling of plus-10 round magazines that were made before the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.

Meanwhile, the President's campaign against gun shows continues, the Los Angeles city council unanimously approved a one-handgun-a-month ordinance, and the American Medical Association recommended that laws barring felons from buying guns be expanded to those who commit misdemeanors.

High Cost Of Success

The saddest battle the industry is facing is one within its ranks. Shortly after the SHOT Show there began a major campaign to remove Richard Feldman from his post as executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council (ASSC). Feldman wasn't targeted for removal because he wasn't doing his job - many would say he has done an exceptional job. He's being removed because he, well, he's done his job. Confused? So are many others.

The ASSC was formed in 1989 to represent the industry in legislative and legal matters. Anti-gun sentiment was growing, and manufacturers, distributors and dealers believed it was time to have their own voice. During its first years, the ASSC built a solid reputation for fighting for the issues important to the industry. So impressive were their accomplishments that in 1994 Michael Saporito of RSR Wholesale, one of the founding members of the ASSC, received the Shooting Industry Award by vote of the membership of the Academy of Excellence. The award is the only one the academy gives to an individual. The next year, ASSC received the academy's Excellence in Marketing and Promotion Award and the Shooting Industry award went to Richard Feldman.

Neither Saporito or Feldman received the awards by sitting at their desks arranging pencils. They were on the road fighting every anti-industry battle they could get to. And, they made a difference. In the last few years, Feldman became more visible as the spokesman for ASSC. He was seen often on national television, successfully debating even the most adamant anti-gun foes. His battle cry: "This fight isn't just about guns, it's about freedom."

With the success, with the notoriety, came criticism from within the gun community. Those in the NRA, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and even the ASSC began to express dissatisfaction with Feldman's "outspoken" and "grandstanding" manner. No one will argue that Feldman isn't outspoken and, okay, he probably has done a bit of grandstanding on occasion. But is that reason to remove him from the ASSC? Without a doubt, the ASSC, with Feldman as its executive director, has been the most effective organization in representing the industry in fighting the anti-gun movement.

Who killed Richard Feldman? He did; he succeeded too much. Why is it that we, in this industry, decimate our leaders?

We salute Feldman. He'll be missed.
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Title Annotation:challenges facing firearms industry; Industry Watch
Author:Thurman, Russ
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 1999
Previous Article:SHOT Show '99 writers' picks.
Next Article:Industry unifies under banner of new foundation.

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