In a surprise move, the Newtown Action Alliance and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) has petitioned the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to cut off funding for a popular youth firearms safety program. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice awarded a $2.4 million grant to Project ChildSafe, a program run by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to encourage responsible firearms use as well as reducing the amount of gun accidents nationwide.
The program also offers free gun locks and education about proper firearm storage. Due to this, many gun owners hardly expected the program to become a target of anti-gun groups, and were taken aback when CSGV and the Newtown Action Alliance announced that they were going to start campaigning against it. The two groups acknowledged the program as an unlikely target, but characterized NSSF as a “radical” lobby with undue influence on gun laws.
“Unsafe storage of firearms is a major public health issue in our nation. While we fully support programs aimed at reducing gun fatalities and injuries, we do not believe that tax payer dollars should be used to fund the corporate gun lobby,” said Ladd Everitt, CSGV Communications Director, in a press release. “Project ChildSafe has a terrible track record and the NSSF’s lobbying activity makes it clear they have no intention of protecting our children if it means limiting industry profit.”
CSGV argued that any good done by Project ChildSafe is “vastly outweighed by the harm NSSF does in lobbying for reckless gun laws.” Many—including the NSSF itself—would disagree. Since 1999, Project ChildSafe has delivered more than 37 million free firearm safety kits across the country and to overseas US territories. These kits have been handed to thousands of law enforcement agencies, hunting organizations, and conservation groups. Supporters of the program say it has been instrumental in teaching children about gun safety and preventing accidents.
“Programs like Project ChildSafe work because proper storage of firearms when not in use is the number one way to help prevent firearm accidents, misuse and theft,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti. “We’re honored to be recognized by the DOJ in our efforts to promote that message and going the extra step to make a means of safe storage readily available to gun owners.”
NSSF made a public statement on Friday in response to the petition and said it was disappointed in the campaign against Project ChildSafe.
“It is unfortunate that these groups, which do not have comprehensive, practical firearms safety programs of their own, cannot find common ground to support the goals of this successful, long-standing safety initiative,” the foundation stated.
NSSF further clarified that the funds will be used to “expand its firearm safety efforts, broaden community partnerships and focus on developing new safety communication tools and distribution strategies.”
“Through the efforts of true firearm safety programs such as Project ChildSafe, accidental firearm fatalities have dropped to their lowest levels since record-keeping began in 1903, including a 60 percent decrease in fatal firearm accidents among youth 14 and under in the last 10 years, and firearms are involved in fewer than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in the United States, according to the National Safety Council,” NSSF stated.
CSGV and the Newtown Action Alliance say they will present the signed petition directly to the DOJ in coming weeks.