In his Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle lecture, Ryan Busse wants to get to the roots of radicalization in the United States.
“I was inside the firearms industry for 20 years,” said Busse, an author and former firearms industry executive. “(My lecture) is really about discussing those roots, and what can be done to halt or reverse them.”
At 3:30 p.m. today in Norton Hall — a new location announced Wednesday night — Busse will give a CLSC lecture on his book, Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America, which chronicles Busse’s time in the firearms industry.
The location change was announced at the same time as new security protocols‚ including metal detection tools, at the Institution. The new protocols come not from any new imminent threat, officials said, but out of caution following discussion with security advisers and program guests.
“Starting in 2004, I realized that I was inside of an industry that was having a massive impact on the nation, way more outsized than somebody in the cereal industry, for instance,” he said. “I realized, ‘Holy smokes, guns and gun politics are changing the country.’ And about then, I had a lot of doubts about the trajectory of the industry.”
Busse said he began living a “dual life” — he participated in the industry and his business, but held doubts about where it was all headed.
“To my knowledge, I was the only one who felt that way,” he said. “It is an industry much like a church, where participation almost requires 100% devotion.
“People who are doubters don’t tend to last very long, but there I was. I started thinking then that there were components of what I lived every day that could be a book, or a TV show, or a screenplay.” Going about 15 years, Busse said he began tallying the “crazy stories” he encountered daily.
“In 2019, I started to do a lot of writing,” he said. “I wanted to get stories and thoughts out on paper with not really any formal structure, just get up in the morning and pour it out. I compiled that into a query letter, sent it to a literary agent and she immediately recognized it as a story that needed to be told.”
Ultimately, Busse said he wants Chautauquans to recognize that “this thing that is now American democracy is not just happening to us.” He also wants them to recognize that they influence the way society operates.
“There are things that we are doing in our society to make it this way,” he said. “In other words, understanding the roots of what is causing some of our democratic distress. The other thing is that we all run the risk of overcommitment to components of our lives that are now becoming our identities. For me, in the firearms industry, you pretty much had to be all-in.”