The NRA Drops the Ball

There are moments in time that, in retrospect, become historic turning points. I don’t know if the Newtown shootings will turn out to be such a moment, but it certainly won’t be unless we get past the tributes, vigils, and talk, and actually enact laws and procedures that will help control access to guns. As the President said, we have to change.

I had hoped against hope that the NRA, which is in a position to really be a leader on this issue, would come out, as had a number of pro-gun Senators, and finally admit that there was a problem. Unfortunately, NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre came out with a lame rehash of excuses and falsehoods blaming everything from ‘gun free zones’ to the media. Way to drop the ball, Wayne. The media was stunned, and not allowed to ask questions, and even conservatives grumbled in their embarrassment. Given a chance to lead, the NRA made the ludicrous suggestion that we put armed guards in every elementary school in the country. That was the extent of their solution. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything more from the same guy who sent me a form letter telling me that as a Civil War re-enactor I had better join the NRA to protect my 2nd Amendment rights or one day I’d find the government knocking at my door to confiscate my one shot muzzle loader. You can literally taste the paranoia in the air. But it goes beyond that.

Good guys with guns, said Wayne, will stop bad guys with guns. Really? And how many cops are shot each year? Colombine High School had an armed guard. Virginia Tech had a police force. Didn’t stop anything. There were security guards at the Portland Mall. In Colorado, anyone can own and carry a concealed firearm. And these folks are trained in firearms and couldn’t prevent the violence. So by allowing more access to weapons, no training and no regulations, Wayne expects that the violence will decrease? The evidence shows that he is wrong – dead wrong. Plus, to blame Obama for gun free zones, which, in the gun lobby’s warped idea of reality, invites gun violence, is not only non fact based but just plain falsehood.

Then there is the simple economic issue. Who will pay for all of these armed guards, their weapons, and their training. Who will pay their salaries? Maybe the NRA, which supports Tea Party economics, will ask their wealthy friends to foot the bill. How will we put together a national data base of ‘mentally ill’ people without violating doctor-patient privilege? And who will define who should be on that list? Lanza wouldn’t have been on it. Neither would the Colombine shooters. One could make a case, after his pathetic performance at the NRA news conference, that LaPierre should be on it. Food for thought.

Here is the reality. First, the people who are behind the NRA are the gun makers and they stand to benefit economically the more of their product they sell. That is why they don’t want regulation. They talk about the 2nd Amendment and freedom and whatever else they think will convince the public, but the truth behind their stand is that the gun lobby makes money off of gun sales. That is what it is all about.

Second, there is absolutely no evidence that additional guns stop violence. It simply isn’t true. Armed guards in schools not only won’t prevent violence (and we already have them in many city schools), but there is the risk that they will be shot first by an intruder or that they will shoot students they think have guns. The whole idea is dangerous and truly outrageous. It is stunning that the NRA and Illinois Rifle Association would suggest such a thing after the wholesale massacre of 20 elementary children.

No, if the NRA won’t lead, then it is time to ignore them and push them to the shadowy corners of the political world where they can freely indulge in their paranoia. Banning assault weapons can be a start, but without the companion pieces of defining what an assault weapon is, national registration, and training, this will not solve the problem. Gun owners need to come out and be clear that it is for our own protection that only people who are qualified to use them should own them. This isn’t a conversation about all or nothing. There will be guns in America, but the culture that thinks that anyone can own any gun must change. This is the challenge. Change the culture and make gun ownership safe – and in doing so we will decrease gun violence. If you don’t agree, than show the evidence that more guns make less violence. You won’t be able to because it simply isn’t true.

If this is to be an historic turning point, progressives and conservatives, gun owners and non-gun owners must join together to solve the problem. What the NRA did was run from the problem like the cowards they have always been. We together must face the truth and break their power if we are to accomplish the goal of ending this sort of gun violence.

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