Josh Sugarmann

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Josh Sugarmann is an American activist for gun control in the United States. He is the executive director and founder in 1988 of the Violence Policy Center, a non-profit advocacy and educational organization, and the author of two books on gun control.



  • Across America, the firepower in the hands of gun owners of varying stripes is increasing dramatically. The reason: assault weapons. Drug traffickers are finding that assault weapons—in addition to 'standard issue' handguns—provide the extra firepower necessary to fight police and competing dealers. Right-wing paramilitary extremists, in their ongoing battle against the "Zionist Occupational Government," have made these easily purchased firearms their gun of choice. And rank and file gun aficionados—jaded with handguns, shotguns, and hunting rifles—are moving up to the television glamour and movie sex appeal of assault weapons. The growing market for these weapons—coupled with a general rising interest in the non-sporting use of firearms—has generated an industry of publications, catalogs, accessories, training camps, and combat schools dedicated to meeting its needs.


  • Guns are the second most deadly consumer product, after cars, on the market. Many consumer products, from lawn darts to the Dalkon Shield, have been banned in the United States, even though they claimed only a fraction of the lives guns do in a day.


  • While the National Rifle Association promotes Mr. Heston as a kinder, gentler face to soften its hard-core image, he is as extreme as the rest of the group's leadership. A Heston speech last December before the ultraconservative Free Congress Foundation in Washington was so hateful that David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, praised it and circulated it on his Web site.
    In his remarks, Mr. Heston repeatedly invoked "cultural 'warfare, spoke warmly of "white pride" and attacked "blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the other." He also compared criticism of gun owners and the N.R.A. to the Nazi oppression of European Jews.
    Whether Mr. Heston does the talking or not, the National Rifle Association remains the same extremist organization that blocks sensible gun laws and markets guns to children.


  • A gun-control movement worthy of the name would insist that President Clinton move beyond his proposals for controls -- such as expanding background checks at gun shows and stopping the import of high-capacity magazines -- and immediately call on Congress to pass far-reaching industry regulation like the Firearms Safety and Consumer Protection Act introduced by Senator Robert Torricelli, Democrat of New Jersey, and Representative Patrick Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island. Their measure would give the Treasury Department health and safety authority over the gun industry, and any rational regulator with that authority would ban handguns.
    Real gun control will take courage. In the long run, half-measures and compromises only sacrifice lives.
    • Sugarmann, Josh (November 4, 1999). "Laws that can't Stop a Bullet". The New York Times. 


  • In the wake of three high-profile school shootings in one week, the last committed by an apparently law-abiding gun owner until he pulled the trigger executing five Amish schoolgirls, America will once again go through the now-predictable exercise of trying to identify any single, possible factor for these gun deaths—except for the guns themselves. On television news, anchors refer to the school shootings as “unavoidable,” as if such mass shootings are the bastard children born of hurricanes and snowstorms.
  • To the NRA, true friends means Republican friends, as can be seen in the NRA’s endorsements when faced with two “pro-gun” candidates. In its traditional pre-election frenzy, the NRA’s magazines featured profiles of Republicans George Allen, Rick Santorum, and Conrad Burns, touting them over Democrats Jim Webb, Bob Casey and Jon Tester, respectively. The gun group was particularly hysterical about the need to defeat to Jim Webb. “This November, it is critical that all freedom-loving Virginians vote to re-elect Sen. George Allen,” the NRA admonished voters in the Old Dominion State.
    The gun lobby’s allegiance to Republicans also shows in its political giving. In 2006, the NRA’s PAC gave 85 percent of its campaign contributions to Republican candidates while Gun Owners of America gave 100 percent to Republicans. In addition, Republican activists Grover Norquist, David Keene, and Ollie North serve on the NRA’s board of directors in addition to current and former Republican Members of Congress.


  • Perhaps more important than the unions’ recognition of the NRA’s below-the-radar support of big business—tort “reform” anyone?—is the fact that this announcement is the latest manifestation of the fact that the NRA doesn’t actually represent the interests of the vast bulk of American gun owners. For most gun owners—hunters and sport shooters—guns are just one part of their lives. The NRA’s caters to, and depends on, the small percentage (granted, a percentage large enough to make the NRA one of the most potent lobbies in the nation) of gun owners for whom guns are their whole life. Despite whatever lip service the NRA pays to the “hook and bullet” crowd, their leadership and activist base live by the bumper sticker credo, “The Second Amendment Isn’t About Duck Hunting.” Driven by what is known in pro-gun circles as “the NATO strategy”—an attack on any category of firearm is an attack on all firearms—the NRA leadership spends its time fighting gun controls of any type, while merely giving lip service to conservation issues. This constant tension—between the sport shooters and the so-called Second Amendment activists—has now broken into the open.
  • Contrary to the familiar chatter of the gun industry and the gun lobby, firearms ownership has declined dramatically over the past 35 years. From 1972 to 2006, the percentage of American households that reported having any guns in the home has dropped nearly 20 percentage points: from a high of 54 percent in 1977 to 34.5 percent in 2006. During the period 1980 to 2006, the percentage of Americans who reported personally owning a gun dropped more than nine percentage points: from a high of 30.7 percent in 1985 to a low during the survey period of 21.6 percent in 2006. Or to look at it another way, nearly two thirds of American homes are gun free, and more than three quarters of Americans do not personally own a gun...the political might of both the NRA and the gun industry relies on consistently overestimating the number of Americans who own guns. To publicly acknowledge that the gun culture in America is fading away, and that they are a clear minority, undercuts their political power.
  • It’s an unbelievably sad commentary that high-profile shootings occur frequently enough that we know the National Rifle Association’s rote four-step crisis management response.
    One. Don’t talk to the press. You don’t want the NRA’s name associated in the public’s mind with mass shootings and the inevitable carnage that results from our nation’s lax gun policies. You want to make sure that the last thing anyone associates with a gun massacre is firearms and those who promote them. To argue to the American public that 32 dead college students and teachers is, as the NRA says, “the price of freedom” is far more difficult when the cost is seen with graphic horror, the faces and stories of the lives lost confronting us. The NRA depends on gun violence being an abstract concept to most Americans. Mass shootings make it all too real.
    Two. If the press coverage is broad enough, issue a statement expressing sympathy for the victims. If not, ignore them.
    Three. When the shooting no longer dominates the news cycle, abandon the bunker and rebuke any and all who have dared to call for gun control. Be sure to indignantly argue that anyone calling for measures to control guns is exploiting tragedy for “political gain.” And be sure to attack the news media for actually covering the story.
    Four. Work to stop measures to address America’s growing gun problem that may be proposed in the wake of the shooting.
    Repeat as necessary.




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