May 1, 2019

“Guns Down” Author To Present New Ways to Stop Gun Violence

By Donald Gilpin

Igor Volsky, author of Guns Down: How to Defeat the NRA and Build a Safer Future with Fewer Guns (2019), will speak on Sunday, May 5, at 2 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton on Cherry Hill Road.

Volsky is the co-founder and executive director of Guns Down America, which is dedicated to building a future with fewer guns. Formed in 2016 after a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the organization has a new approaches to combating gun violence, creating a ranking system that gives large banks letter grades based mainly on their connections to gun makers and groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Volsky, according to an April 4 New York Times article, said he hoped the grading system would put pressure on banks to support gun control measures in the same way that many companies have taken stands on other social issues.

“We have too many guns and they are too easy to get, and that’s in large part because our nation’s largest banks don’t include gun violence prevention in their business decisions,” said Volsky, as quoted in an article, “Is Your Bank Loaded? Find Out and Take Action!” on the Guns Down America website. “Consumers deserve to know when they go to the bank whether the bank on their corner is propping up the gun industry with bailouts and campaign cash.”

As quoted in the New York Times, Volsky pointed out his goal of blocking “the wild, wild West of how gun manufacturers both produce military-style weapons and also how they can market those firearms. We’re not interested in shaming banks or running a campaign focused on how evil they are. Our end goal is to change the way banks make decisions when doing business with the gun industry.”

Of the 15 banks receiving grades from Guns Down America, six, including Wells Fargo, PNC, JPMorgan Chase, BB&T, TD Bank, and US Bank Corp, received failing grades.

Banks lost points on the ranking for their support for the gun industry and its lobby, including loans and credit to gun companies and donations to lawmakers supported by the NRA. Some banks, according to the New York Times, have disputed the accuracy of the ranking system, and others have already started to revise their policies and practices on firearms.

In his book, Volsky presents a plan for citizens to influence their elected officials to control guns more effectively and to make their communities safer.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Volsky immigrated to the United States with his family in 1993. He worked for progressive change at the Center for American Progress for many years, and in 2015 made headlines for attacking the hypocrisy of lawmakers who took money from the NRA and sent “thoughts and prayers” after mass shootings. He has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC television, and many radio shows.

The presentation on Sunday is sponsored by the Ceasefire NJ Project (CFNJ) of the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA) and Guns Down America, and will also include updates from CFNJ leaders on their efforts to strengthen gun safety laws in New Jersey. In 2018 CFNJ took the lead in promoting the passage of eight new gun safety laws, more than any other state.

“We are pleased to host this program on exciting and effective new approaches to advocating for gun violence prevention,” said CFPA Executive Director the Rev. Robert Moore. “Igor Volsky is a pioneer in this area, and we encourage all interested people to come and learn more.”