How the Firearms Industry and NRA Market Guns to Communities of Color

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.”

Additional sections of the study include: 

■ A detailed section utilizing WISQARS data from the federal Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention detailing the disproportionate impact lethal gun violence has on Blacks and  Latinos. 

■ An analysis of how rarely guns are used by private citizens in justifiable homicides or  non-lethal self defense incidents, utilizing data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s  Supplementary Homicide Report as well as the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime  Victimization Survey. 

In its conclusion, the study states, “As with the alcohol and tobacco industries, the joint actions  of the NRA and the firearms industry should be seen for what they are: a cynical marketing  effort by a rogue industry that values its own perpetuation above all, including any lives lost or  communities adversely impacted.” 

For the landing page of the study and related materials in both English and Spanish, please  visit: https://vpc.org/how-the-firearms-industry-and-nra-market-guns-to-communities-of-color/ 

Full study (web version)

Full study (pdf)

Executive Summary

(source: Violence Policy Center)

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