The leader of a gun-control group decried efforts to sell firearms to minorities and women as "incredibly dangerous" on Monday.
"Gun makers are softening their image to 'put a better face in front of people' & 'ramp up its appeal to women, children and members of minority groups,'" Igor Volsky, executive director of gun-control activist group Guns Down America, said in a tweet. Volsky, who is also a former vice president of the Center for American Progress, was commenting on a New York Times story about firearms marketing.
"That's right," Volsky continued. "Gun makers are increasingly advertising to WOMEN, CHILDREN & MINORITY COMMUNITIES. Firearm industry realizes that to survive into the future it must 'broaden its reach beyond the aging white men who have been its core customers'—and so they're now trying to sell their products to other demographics. This is incredibly dangerous."
The comments caused a backlash among female and minority gun-rights advocates who said Volsky's rhetoric harks back to the racist history of gun control in America. Maj Toure, head of the Black Guns Matter Tour that provides firearms training to African Americans in urban areas, told the Washington Free Beacon Volsky was "uninformed" about past attempts to deny black Americans their Second Amendment rights.
"The overt racism of gun control rears its ugly head again," Toure said. "Imagine being either so uninformed on the racist roots of gun control or so full of yourself that you would not only think but also believe that melinated Americans owning guns would be incredibly dangerous. I wonder what he thinks of the thousands of melinated law enforcement officers and military personnel that carry firearms to protect life as well?"
Female activists also took issue with Volsky's patronizing language. Robyn Sandoval, executive director of the shooting league A Girl and A Gun, said increasing gun ownership among women promotes safety.
"Self-defense is a basic human right regardless of gender or ethnicity," Sandoval told the Free Beacon. "To suggest that minorities and women are less capable of making good decisions or do not have the same need to keep their families safe is condescending and irrational."
Sandoval also said the growth in female-focused products and marketing is a response to women wanting to own firearms.
"Gun manufacturers aren’t luring more women into gun ownership," she said. "Rather, the demand by women interested in self defense, hunting, and sport allows opportunities for manufacturers to provide firearms that meet women’s needs and goals."
Dianna Muller, founder of the all-female gun-rights group DC Project, also called Volsky's remarks "condescending." She added that "The 2nd Amendment is for everyone" and that "Perhaps the women are going to the manufacturers and asking for specific features that suit their needs."
Volsky did not elaborate on why selling guns to women or minorities is dangerous in his initial Twitter thread and did not respond to a request for comment.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry's trade group, said the gun control proposals backed by Volsky would deprive women and minorities of their gun rights.
"It's appalling that Igor Volsky would pursue racist and misogynistic policies to deprive women and minorities of their full rights as law-abiding adult Americans," NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva told the Free Beacon. "The true danger is the bigotry Guns Down America is perpetuating by chasing gun-control laws that have their roots in racism."
Oliva said the gun industry's efforts to reach out to women and minorities—some of the industry's fastest-growing customer groups—are nothing new. He said the industry has long worked to accommodate users of every background based on feedback from shooters. The growing popularity of shooting among women has led companies such as Smith and Wesson to shape recoil-spring tension, stock length, and magazine design to meet the demands of female shooters.
"The firearms industry is proud to empower women and minority communities that are embracing the full spectrum of their rights," Oliva said. "We are honored to earn their trust and know we provide the firearms they choose to best meet their needs for lawful self-defense, hunting, and recreational shooting."