A visit to SHOT Show 2016 would not be complete without speaking to the National Rifle Association about all of the politics swirling around guns these days. 

We grabbed a few minutes with NRA media liaison Lars Dalseide at the largest firearm convention in the country to talk about expanding criminal background checks, military-style rifles and the power of the NRA.

Q: We’re hearing a lot lately about expanding criminal background checks. What’s something you think is important for people to know about that issue?

Dalseide: When it comes to the expansion of background checks, a US Bureau of Justice Statistics did a study about where criminals get their guns. They always want to talk about the supposed gun show loophole. Well according to this study, that accounts for 0.7 percent of all firearms used in crimes. It’s time and again we see that when criminals are getting guns they are getting them on the black market, stealing them, having friends or family do straw purchases. The cops aren’t actually finding the gun shows to be a problem. What is the problem is that when they are breaking the law, criminals are not being arrested or prosecuted because it might not be a sexy enough case for the prosecutor.

Q: Is there any additional regulation you think the NRA would support this year in Congress?

Dalseide: Yea, right now there is a bill in the Senate by John Cornin and Martha McSally out of Arizona that addresses the mental health issues we’re seeing. There will be more funds going out there to the states for them to utilize and get the most accurate data we can into the national criminal background system.

Q: It seems like we’re seeing a lot of these modular weapons like the ARs and AX. Do you think they have a vital role in the shooting sports industry?

Dalseide: Specifically with the ARs there has been a big push lately for black rifle hunting. With every generation whenever they fight a foreign battle they often come back and want to use the firearms they used in battle. For those who fought in WWI, WWII and Korea that meant they used the wooden stock rifles. That changed a little bit in Vietnam and Desert Storm and what we have today. That’s why you’re seeing more of these rifles used in a recreational way. It’s a comfortable thing. It’s a reasonable thing, and we think we are going to see a lot more of the black hunting rifles in the future.

Q: As far as the NRA lobbying, you were saying earlier that it’s not so much about money as it is about the members. Can you talk about that?

Dalseide: Sure. The example I like to give is based out of Washington. There was a ballot initiative where the other side outspent us 10 to 1. If the other side is spending $10 million in one ballot initiative in a western state, you have to think about how much money they are spending elsewhere. That just goes to show what we’ve been telling people for a long time. The power is not in the money and the campaign contributions. The power of the NRA is in its members that are engaged politically, that are very active, that will go knock on doors, send emails and take people to the polls on election day. These are the people who support us and they vote specifically on this very issue and that’s where the true power of the NRA rests.   

Q: What are your general thoughts on the SHOT show? You get the sense that the gun culture is alive and well. What are some of the things you’re excited about seeing? 

Dalseide: For me it’s the people, dealing with reporters, seeing friends. There are a number of people that are charged up about the variety of firearms they get to play with but I get to shoot enough  whenever I really want to so the latest and greatest guns aren’t going to get me moving as much as the people I get to see here.

Video credit: James Armstong and Peter Acosta