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March 18, 2010

An Organization That Represents 100 Million Sport Shooters Worldwide


There is an organization called the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities that hunters and shooters should know about because of the work it does on their behalf. It’s a unique organization—an international “association of associations”—that brings together national groups dedicated to preserving the freedom to own and use sporting firearms around the world.

If you don’t hunt or shoot internationally, you might not think WFSA matters. But it does. When other countries restrict the lawful ownership of firearms, that emboldens groups in the United States to pursue similar restrictions. On the other hand, if you do travel to hunt big-game in Africa, bird hunt in South America, shoot competitively in Europe or Asia, or want to enjoy recreational shooting anywhere, it’s much easier to see why the WFSA is so valuable to you. Even traveling through a restrictive country can cause problems for firearms owners. 

With politically powerful forces pushing diverse strategies to curtail gun ownership internationally, WFSA is the international organization best positioned to share information and empower national organizations to respond to such challenges. The group's annual meeting took place recently at the IWA trade show in Nuremberg, where Steve Sanetti, president of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, delivered the important closing "call to action" speech. His “call” was for a bigger, more powerful organization.

Sanetti began by pointing out that in its 14-year history WFSA has established its credibility internationally, becoming recognized by, and invited to provide its viewpoint to, the United Nations and many governments. Last year, for example, Sanetti addressed a U.N. audience at the Biennial Meeting of States on Small Arms.

Over the past year, WFSA has had many successes, including organizing the groundbreaking "Ecologic and Economic Benefit of Hunting" symposium in Namibia, but Sanetti cautioned it will take a bigger, stronger organization to parry the many challenges sport shooting faces worldwide. The list of U.N. and regional initiatives the WFSA is engaged in is impressive–and daunting–including the arms trade treaty, U.N. firearms protocol, efforts to establish international small arms control standards, environmental issues (particularly related to the use of traditional ammunition) and countering attempts to restrict ownership of firearms.

"Last month . . . a government commission in Finland recommended the banning of all semi-automatic handguns–200,000 of the 600,000 guns legally possessed by the citizens of Finland," said Sanetti. "This was shocking . . . and it could be a portent of things to come." He pointed out that firearms used in the Olympics, for waterfowl shooting and for target shooting all share the same basic semi-automatic action–a fact most people do not realize.

"We cannot fall into the trap of saying that certain guns are good and certain guns are bad," emphasized Sanetti. The WFSA's Project on Myths works to counter this and other misunderstandings and distortions about firearms and their use.

Sanetti noted how hunters and shooters around the world rely on WFSA to protect their heritage and image, though they may not know it. "The average hunter or sport shooter in America, Italy or any other place . . . is only vaguely aware of what is in store for us in this new globalized environment."

National organizations are fully consumed with responding to issues of concern in their countries, as they should be, said Sanetti. It's up to WFSA, he stressed, to make the national associations aware of how international threats, such as a ban on traditional ammunition, can depress sport shooting and curtail opportunities for all hunters and sport shooters.

He called on members to "bring the message home" that WFSA is the international organization with the experience and expertise to represent the concerns of more than 100 million sport shooters worldwide.

Any association interested in joining the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities can learn more at its Web site.