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Where a former gun industry executive draws the line on gun culture sustainability

The phrase "gun culture" means different things to different people. Gun enthusiasts herald and defend their constitutional right to own and use firearms. On the other hand, many gun control advocates view gun culture in the United States as a national shame, one that makes the nation world leaders in gun ownership and violence.

The polarization between these two camps is well-chronicled, and former firearms executive Ryan Busse finds himself smack in the middle.

Busse calls himself “a proud outdoorsman, gun owner, father, and resident of Montana.” If there is a reasonable, sustainable middle ground between gun rights and gun control, Busse may know better than most where to plant that flag. His new book is Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America.

“My story, like the story of our nation, is complex. To understand it all, we need to know the truth about how our country’s fascination with guns, power and radicalization forms the framework of our modern existence.” - Ryan Busse in Gunfight

Busse grew up in a family that valued guns as useful tools. He has fond memories of learning about them from his father and has passed that tradition down to his children. He grew up in a time when the National Rifle Association stood for and promoted responsible gun ownership and ethics. But he saw that stance, and the relationship between the NRA and the gun industry, change over the years toward a culture of conspiracy theories and fearmongering. At a crucial interlude, the man nominated many times for the Shooting Industry Person of The Year Award could no longer support the path he saw that industry taking.

Guns are used for recreation — hunting, target practice, and competitions — and self-defense in the United States. Recent studies show that the sub-culture of recreational use is falling, while that of self-defense is on the rise. Amid those trends, people are being killed in staggering numbers.

“There were 14,400 gun-related homicides in 2019. Killings involving a gun accounted for nearly three-quarters of all homicides in the U.S. in that year.”

Busse spoke with KUOW’s Bill Radke about his book and the changes he wants to see in America’s gun culture. Town Hall Seattle presented their talk on November 1, 2021, as part of their Civics series.

Please note: This recording contains language of an adult nature.

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