Josh Sugarmann

American activist

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.




  • In a terrifying example of progress outpacing common sense, the handgun industry is poised on the brink of the first major change in concealable firearms in this century--plastic handguns.
    Incorporating resilient, lightweight, corrosion-proof polymers into their design, plastic handguns will render metal detectors ineffective. When broken down into their component pieces, they will easily deceive X-ray machines.
    This new generation of handgun will appeal to numerous gun aficionados for a variety of reasons, but will be best suited for one in particular: terrorists. Unfortunately, we already have a glimpse of the future. Austrian plastics manufacturer Gaston-Glock has developed the Glock 17, the first handgun in the world to employ plastic in its structural design. This "handgun of the future" is almost half plastic. Only three of its major components are metal: the barrel, slide and spring. Including its clip, the 33-piece gun weighs only 23 ounces and can be field-stripped and reassembled without tools.
  • 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.
  • Yesterday Connecticut gunmaker Sturm, Ruger & Co. announced an “Inaugural Special“ for high-capacity ammunition magazines for its Mini-14 rifles, a weapon nicknamed the “poor man’s assault rifle.” According to Ruger:
    From November 4, 2008 to January 20, 2009, fans of the Ruger Mini-14 Target Rifles and Mini-14 Ranch Rifles, both chambered for .223 Remington, can purchase Ruger manufactured 20-round magazines (regularly priced at $39.95) for only $29.95. This special offer is only available through the Ruger On-line Store. Please note that these magazines are not available where state or local regulations limit magazine capacity to less than 20 rounds.
  • Over the past few years the gun industry has become increasingly dominated by manufacturers selling only AK-47 and AR-15 type assault rifles (newly christened “black rifles” by gunmakers to make them a little more cuddly and a little less killy), new high-powered handguns ranging from revolvers with the penetration power of rifles to AK-47 pistols, to anti-armor 50 caliber sniper rifles. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy of Shotgun News and compare the number of gun ads for “traditional” hunting rifles (a handful) to those for assault rifles (all the rest). Military-style weapons are the guns that are flying off the shelves and into the homes of people frightened about the “change” that an Obama Administration represents.
  • Guns are now the only consumer product manufactured in America not regulated by a federal agency for health and safety...
    When presented with guns’ unique niche in the pantheon of consumer products, the industry and its cheerleaders like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) go into a well-practiced spiel of how in fact they’re actually the most regulated industry in America — citing dealer and manufacturer licensing, the minimal paperwork necessary to buy a gun under federal law, the Brady background check all buyers must go through to purchase a weapon from a licensed dealer, and the fact that ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] is allowed to check a dealer’s sales records once a year (a privilege the agency has the manpower to employ on a far less frequent basis). Yet these are sales standards, not product safety standards. ATF lacks any of the health and safety authority that is routinely granted — and usually expected by the American public — for other consumer products...
    And as the gun industry continues to exploit its unique status with increasingly lethal military style weapons for the civilian market, this disparity can only become more evident.


  • The Freedom Group, a “family” of gun companies cobbled together by Cerberus Capital Management (the former owners of Chrysler, among many other things), has just filed new documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in anticipation of a long-threatened stock IPO (Initial Public Offering). And the picture isn’t pretty.
    Freedom Group companies run the gamut from sporting arms to assault weapons. In addition to Bushmaster and DPMS (two leading manufacturers of AR-15 type assault rifles), companies and brands that comprise Freedom Group include: Remington, Marlin, Harrington & Richardson, New England Firearms, L.C. Smith, Dakota Arms, Advanced Armament Corporation, and Barnes Bullets. Freedom Group states that it has the number one U.S. market position in shotguns (31 percent), ammunition (33 percent), traditional rifles (37 percent), and “modern sporting rifles” (48 percent).
  • Today the NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through the Round-Up Program, created by top NRA benefactor Larry Potterfield. Potterfield is founder and head of MidwayUSA, which claims to stock “[j]ust about everything for shooting, reloading, gunsmithing and hunting,” including ammunition and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The Round-Up Program encourages buyers to “round-up” their purchase to the nearest dollar with the difference going to the NRA.
  • The NRA, a trade association for the gun industry masquerading as a shooting sports foundation, has worked for decades to block any policy that could negatively affect the industry’s bottom line. They’ve taken tens of millions of dollars in donations from gun companies that care more about increased profits than protecting public safety.
  • In the long-term trends, gun ownership in the United States has been declining steadily since the 1970s. The traditional gun-buying public, basically white males, has been aging and dying off, and there aren't enough replacement shooters to take their place. That's why you're seeing a shift in the industry away from traditional hunting rifles and shotguns evolve to focus on firepower and capacity.
  • Year after year, our findings are consistent: States with stricter gun laws and lower rates of gun ownership have some of the lowest overall gun death rates in the county. Conversely, states with lax gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the nation’s highest gun death rates.
  • ...the truth is that guns are rarely used to stop crimes or kill criminals...private citizens use guns to harm themselves or others far more often than to kill in self-defense...The fact is that the use of guns in self-defense in America bears little resemblance to the false claims made by the NRA and its gun industry partners. Perhaps most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.
  • The bottom line is, guns beget gun violence...private citizens rarely use guns to kill criminals or stop crimes...For every time a person used a gun to kill in a justifiable homicide, 34 innocent lives were ended in criminal gun homicides...Why does the gun industry persist in its lies? Short answer: to make money...Relying on a gun for self-defense is much more likely to result in tragedy than protection — 34 times more likely, according to our study. Guns don’t protect us. They kill us.
  • Today's National Rifle Association is essentially a de facto trade association masquerading as a shooting sports foundation. So the NRA does the bulk of lobbying for the industry. You know, you hear the NRA talking about their opposition to an assault weapons ban, their opposition to raising the age for the purchase of a long gun from 18 to 21 years of age. And they try to frame it in terms of freedom and history and, you know, sort of the sacred nature of firearms.
    Well, the reality is that's bad for the industry to pass those laws. If you ban assault weapons, that wipes out what they rely on as a recent profit center. If you raise the age for purchase of a long gun, which includes assault rifles, then you add three more years to the timeframe before a young person can buy a gun. So it's very important to understand the political battle in terms of the interests of the industry and in terms of marketing.
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