Journal-Advocate (Sterling)

Gunfight: Extremism or commonsens­e reform

- Tom Westfall Guest columnist

Ryan Busse grew up on a ranch/farm just east of Bird City, Kansas. As a youngster, he did all the traditiona­l ranching chores — baling hay, feeding animals, and the like — but his favorite part of country living was his love of the wild places, where large mule deer lived, and pheasants flushed with unpredicta­ble regularity. Ryan was the consummate hunter and as he grew up, he often found himself thinking about how he could have a career that included lots of shooting and time in nature.

Subsequent to college, Ryan was able to get in on the ground floor of the Kimber gun company. A fledgling company that was dedicated to making high quality rifles (and ultimately, high quality handguns) was the perfect fit for Busse. He quickly became a rising star in the gun industry, selling literally hundreds of thousands of guns. On several occasions he was given awards by the industry for his productivi­ty and the influence he exerted relative to the 2nd Amendment of the Constituti­on.

In the ensuing years, however, Busse, a champion of conservati­on, began to realize that the industry of which he was a part was much less interested in preserving public ground for hunting and fishing, and much more interested in selling guns — at any price.

“Gunfight,” Busse’s first book published by Hachette Book in New York and recently released, is a largely autobiogra­phical glimpse into the world of guns, the men and women that sold them, and the role that the NRA played in the radicaliza­tion of America — all in the name of gun sales. Because Busse was an insider in the industry for more than 20 years, “Gunfight” offers a rare look behind the scenes revealing the metamorpho­sis in America relative to the gun culture.

Reactions from people behind the curtain regarding some of America’s biggest gun-related tragedies are revealed. One executive joked about canceling the “back to school special” after the massacre at Sandy Hook, and even though many of the people in the gun industry privately supported increased safety laws relative to guns, (such as closing the gun show loophole, reducing the legal magazine capacity, eliminatin­g bumpstocks) fear of retaliatio­n from the NRA served to silence almost everyone.

The NRA “scored” every legislativ­e vote that our Congressio­nal representa­tives made and those with lower scores were often targeted by the NRA either in primary elections or in the general election. Donald Trump Jr. became an active spokespers­on for the NRA, and he, along with many others in the industry, “demonized” anyone that even contemplat­ed introducin­g any sort of legislatio­n that could be construed as “anti-second Amendment, whether they were or not. The “slippery slope” was one that the NRA and its most radicalize­d followers simply weren’t willing to risk.

For many years, even though he had self-doubts, Busse continued to work in the industry. He justified this to himself and his family by saying that it was better for him to a voice of reason inside the industry than someone on the outside. Ultimately, however, when a middleaged man wearing “an American flag on his shirt and a pistol on his belt…his face matching the color of his Make America Great Again hat” thrust his finger into

Busse’s son’s chest screaming at him that “You are an evil little bastard,” Busse, whose son Badge was attending a Black Lives Matter Rally in his home town in Montana, finally realized that the time had come for him leave the industry in which he had invested the majority of his life.

“Gunfight” is a powerful expose that sheds light on how special interests have perverted the Second Amendment, creating a gun culture that tolerates only lockstep with its extreme viewpoint. Busse has had his life threatened because he’s had the courage to speak out from a place of experience and insight, and the growing polarizati­on in our country relative to guns is frightenin­g.

I am a gun owner. I have a dozen or so firearms, and I enjoy shooting them and just having them around. A couple of antique guns highlight my small collection, but they are certainly my favorites. Should someone break into my house and threaten the lives of those I love, I wouldn’t hesitate to use a gun in self-defense, but I am also a firm believer that the status quo of gun legislatio­n in America is woefully inadequate relative to the protection of our citizens.

I firmly believe that the majority of American gun owners favor commonsens­e legislatio­n — nothing radical, and certainly nothing that in any way limits a person’s ability to bear arms — just the passage of laws that might help prevent the next massacre of children, or the death of concert goers.

It is well past time for men and women of conscience to act in concert to stem the tide of extremism that manifests itself in a poser wannabe demonstrat­ing open carry with an AR-15 at my local Walmart.

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