NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre’s statement following the Newtown, Conn., tragedy was stunning in that it never mentioned changing our gun laws. Instead, LaPierre talked about society’s demons, horrible monsters and predators in a fearmongering appeal to our lesser instincts. It was an ugly attempt to alarm and distract the public.
THERE IS NO single remedy or legislative act that will stop violence; there always will be evil and killing. Reducing gun violence requires a multifaceted approach, including enhanced physical security; less violence in the media and in video games; increased focus on mental health; and, yes, modified gun laws.
Along with most Americans, I support Second Amendment rights. Growing up on a farm in a Republican stronghold in Michigan, my father gave me my first gun, a single-shot .22, when I was 10. The NRA provided teaching material and targets for our 4-H gun safety course.
As a gun owner, I don’t worry about anyone taking away my guns. Five years ago, gun owners’ rights were reaffirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller.
Despite NRA fund-raising claims, there is no threat to gun ownership in America.
Balancing individual rights and our collective security is not easy, but commonsense changes to our gun laws can preserve both.
The most obvious fix is to eliminate the “gun show loophole” that allows individuals to buy weapons from other individuals without a background check. The latest Gallup poll shows 92 percent of Americans support eliminating this access to guns. In a separate poll conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, a majority of past and current NRA members even supported this change.
THE SECOND reasonable change backed by most Americans is eliminating the sale of large-capacity magazines such as the one used in Newtown. These magazines are not used for hunting; their only justification is for self-defense.
If you need more than 10 shells in your semi-automatic to defend yourself, you are in deep trouble. You need more target practice, not a larger magazine.
The NRA was founded in 1871 as a grassroots organization focused on marksmanship, but today it is a right-wing lobbying juggernaut supporting the gun industry. Former NRA President Sandy Froman wrote that the NRA “saved the American gun industry from bankruptcy.”
Small wonder Wayne LaPierre sees the answer to gun violence as more guns.
The NRA of my youth still exists, helping young people learn gun safety, marksmanship and the joys of hunting. But this majority of reasonable NRA members has been supplanted by leadership intent on its own political and financial agenda.
NRA’s leaders use members’ dues for their million-dollar salaries, and misuse members’ political support to promote certain issues that, as noted above, most members don’t even agree with.
The NRA leadership’s intransigence not only damages its own reputation, but also hurts the politicians who support it. Because most Republican and conservative Democratic politicians have not criticized the NRA’s resistance to commonsense gun law changes, the NRA has made them guilty by association.
INCREDIBLY, THE NRA has become its own worst enemy. In the main, it is an organization of good people being badly led.
We all should be thankful for politicians who have the courage to take stands on all aspects of reducing gun violence, including commonsense changes to gun control laws.
(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)