Q&A: Steve Sanetti, CEO National Shooting Sports Foundation

Steve Sanetti, CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, speaks at a press conference Tuesday. Staff photo/ Lee Williams

Steve Sanetti, CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, speaks at a press conference Tuesday in Sun City Center. Staff photo/ Lee Williams

Steve Sanetti has been CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation – the trade association of the firearms industry – since 2008.

Unlike NRA presidents who are limited to two, one-year terms, Sanetti can serve as long as he desires. He has no plans to leave.

A former Army captain, VMI grad, and former president of Sturm Ruger & Co. – one of his last acts at the firm was to introduce the LCP – Sanetti is a leader within the firearms community.

I met him at a press conference Tuesday, while reporting a story for my newspaper about NSSF’s Project ChildSafe. He graciously consented to an interview.

Q: How would you characterize the health of the country’s firearms industry?

A: It’s doing very well, coming off of four years of growth in production volume. It’s really unprecedented. The hunting, shooting and outdoor industry contribute $3 billion annually and hundreds of thousands of jobs, even during the recession. Even though we came off of four years of record growth, crime with firearms is down. That’s counter-intuitive to a lot of people, but it’s a fact. Gun sales are up. Hunting is up. Shooting is up, but crime is down.

Q: What’s the biggest risk factor for the nation’s firearms owners?

A: Political as always. Depending on the results of various elections – local, state or federal – we can have a person with respect for the right to keep and bear arms or, unfortunately after some sort of tragedy, with more pressure for restriction, whether or not they have anything to do with any specific incident.

Q: Have firearms prices stabilized?

A: Firearms prices are stable, but one area that is still going up is ammo. Ammunition is in short supply. People in the hunting and shooting community – these people are so accustomed to the ammunition shortage – they buy it if they see it on the shelves, whether they plan to use it immediately or not. It contributes to the shortage.

Q: Do you, like NRA Executive VP and CEO Wayne LaPierre, attribute the recent mass shooting at the Navy Yard to a breakdown in the mental health system?

A: Definitely. This man had a secret security clearance and a history of mental health issues involving firearms. I think before there’s any discussion about expanding background checks, we need to fix the system we have right now. NSSF has put forth a program Fix Nics. We’ve got four states to begin inputting their mental health records into the federal system, but the system is woefully deficient. The main resistance comes from the mental health community.

Q: The AR-15/M4 platform is the most popular firearm in the United States, yet it’s constantly vilified as the weapon of choice for mass shooters and other malcontents. Why is this?

A:  The looks of the AR platform, combined with public misconception of semi-auto – it’s easy to vilify. People who don’t know firearms look at the thing and in their minds, it’s a machine gun. We’ve been trying to educate the public to stop using the term ‘assault rifle,’ which refers to a machine gun. The AR-15 platform is the firearm of choice for millions of shooters. We’re call it the modern sporting rifle. That’s what it is.

Q: As a former president Sturm Ruger and Co., I assume you’re pleased with how the firm has performed recently?

A: It’s doing very well. Mr. Ruger would be proud.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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