Don’t blame the NRA
Sure as shootin’, as the old idiom goes, we just had another gun massacre in a gun-freedom state.
Followed by another round of self-satisfied smirk, snark and sneering by smarter-than-thou gun militants attacking anyone with the temerity to favor more sensible gun laws.
My favorite response to the May 18, Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting is from certified bullet-head, Washington swamp-dwelling Millennial Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative group Turning Point, who — bless his heart — is just doing his job as a slick mouthpiece and cable news “personality” for his billionaire funders.
“It is illegal for a 17 yr. old to own a gun … to bring a gun on school grounds … to carry without a permit in Texas, to saw the barrel off of a shotgun … and to shoot and kill people. And we are being told more laws will fix this?” Kirk asks sarcastically. (And a bit heartlessly given the pain and suffering of the parents, family and schoolmates of the kids slaughtered.)
Hey, Charlie, I know you’re just pandering to your donors and cable news bookers, so you’re all about exposure and money, but more gun laws just might be worth a try. What’s the worst that could happen if we tighten background checks, renew the 1994–2004 assault-weapons ban, or close the gun-show loophole?
Yeah yeah, I know: More gun control leads to gun confiscation and Hillary/Hitler when the real problem is not guns but mental illness, a violent culture, weak school security and unarmed teachers, blah blah, gaping yawn, yadda yadda.
After each mass shooting we play another round of NRA bingo, putting down a marker with each tired cliché the gun lobby and its congressional puppets trot out. (“Good guy with a gun” — yes! Bingo!)
I get it: It’s just preaching to the choir because it works for the choir, it’s expected by the choir, you make money preaching to the choir, and the sermon offers cover for what is plain old money grubbing by the gun makers and ornery self-righteousness and selfishness by radical gun owners.
Arguing with hard-core gun-rights folks is pointless. Facts fail. Reason and logic fail. Emotion fails. The Second Amendment is gospel. You might as well debate an archbishop about the Holy Trinity.
But my faith is that life is a triumph of hope over experience, to borrow from Samuel Johnson. So indulge me by considering four points:
1. Yes, more laws do fix national problems.
I’m no lawyer or legal scholar, but Millennial money-grubbing bullet-head Charlie Kirk insults the intelligence of his audience — and makes them look stupid when they endorse and share his shallow, obvious views — in claiming that more laws won’t fix the gun massacre problem.
As we all know, Americans are constantly demanding new laws when existing statutes fall short or fall behind the times or needs.
In 2016–17, one of the least productive sessions of Congress, lawmakers still passed 97 laws that “make meaningful policy changes — from overhauling education benefits for veterans to expanding a program to detect hearing loss in young children — that touch on every corner of the country,” Politico reported.
And remember: Every state and federal law passed and regulation adopted represents Americans who demanded new laws from their lawmakers because existing laws didn’t work well enough.
Look at the opioid epidemic, which — like guns — kills over 100 Americans a day.
I’ve argued that we should treat the gun-death crisis like we treat the opioid-death crisis, and tighten down access, misuse and abuse of guns just as we’re trying to do with pills:
On the opioid crisis, some may argue we already have enough laws.
It’s already illegal for anyone to use, share or sell someone else’s prescription drugs.
Pharmacists face a kaleidoscope of state laws controlling everything from prescription drug time and dosage limits, to physical exam requirements before prescribing or dispensing controlled substances, to requirements on healthcare practitioners to prevent “doctor shopping” to get more pills.
Drug makers and distributors face lawsuits under various statutes for pumping too many opioids into the system without proper controls to ensure the drugs are not misused and abused. The laws controlling prescription drugs go on and on.
And yet, President Trump, the GOP Congress, and state governors and legislatures both Republican and Democratic are calling for and adopting new laws to fight the opioid crisis and deaths.
They believe more laws will fix the opioid crisis. The same way reasonable, common-sense people agree that better gun laws will fix the crisis in gun deaths, Charlie.
2. America is sick to death of our gun problem.
Random mass shootings have become the nation’s #1 threat of domestic terrorism. The potential strikes more fear into schools, homes and communities than any jihadist could ever dream to perpetrate.
Trump and his accolades want to ban immigrants from Muslim countries because the Trump base — impassioned by nativism, xenophobia, ignorance and their selected news sources that feed and fuel their hatreds — believes Muslims pose our greatest domestic terrorist threat. Same with the “build the wall” mob that fears Latin American immigrants.
But in clinging to gun rights, the Trump base is becoming an unwitting co-conspirator in our most dangerous domestic terrorism.
More Americans fear, suffer and die from our gun freedom than by Islamist-inspired terror incidents or MS-13 crimes. Look it up.
That leads to my third point:
3. The NRA is the wrong target.
Too many mainstream journalists, columnists, thought leaders, opinion-makers, activists, advocacy groups, policymakers, elected officials and cable news bloviators excoriate the NRA and its public-facing uglies Wayne LaPierre, Dana Loesch and Oliver North for the gun massacre epidemic and Washington’s failure to act.
Or we blame the gun makers for funding the gun lobby, or Trump and Congress for being bought NRA puppets.
Blaming the NRA is like blaming a rattlesnake for biting. A deadly snake does what a deadly snake was designed to do.
The NRA is just doing its job, representing the multi-billion dollar gun industry, large donors and dues-paying members that fund the NRA executive multi-million annual salaries. Their souls will reap whatever rewards the underworld is preparing for them. But the NRA is not the real problem.
If we want to advance gun policy in America, let’s go to the real power: The people who resist sensible new gun controls.
Fortunately, we’re talking about a relatively small minority of Americans. Consider these stats from various nonpartisan sources:
· Only 30% of Americans own a gun.
· Only 10% of gun owners in America belong to the NRA.
· Most NRA members (74%), and even more non-NRA gun owners (83%), favor tighter background checks.
· More than 50% of non-NRA member gun owners support a ban on assault-style weapons, and even a third of NRA members favor the ban.
· Over 80% of both gun owners and non-gun owners believe we should prevent the mentally ill and people on no-fly or watch lists from buying a gun.
· 54% of gun owners favor a federal data base to track gun sales, 48% favor an assault weapons ban and 44% support banning high-capacity magazines.
Even more surprising, only 37% of gun owners want concealed-carry in more places, only 35% want to arm teachers and school officials, and only 29% want shorter waiting periods to buy guns, which suggests that 71% of gun owners are just fine with the current waiting periods.
What does this tell us? Millions of Americans, even gun owners, support “more laws to fix this” gun problem. Very few want to roll back the laws.
The most militant gun-rights advocates that oppose and block change are a small minority, the classic tail wagging the dog, overriding the will of the majority.
4. The enemy is us.
It’s tempting to blame the NRA, the cowardly congressmen and women afraid of the NRA, and the most ornery, outspoken and active gun militants.
But — sorry, my friends — people like me who support sensible gun laws are complicit by omission. How? We fail to turn our outrage into action. We don’t exercise our fundamental rights and duties as citizens. We can’t even pick up the phone, send an email, or otherwise express our views with our elected officials like our fellow gun-rights citizens do.
As a Pew survey last October found, while 21% of gun owners have contacted a public official to express their opinion on gun policy, only 12% of non-gun owners have done so.
And Americans who think gun laws should be rolled back are more likely to reach out to officials than people who believe in stronger gun laws.
So let’s not blame the NRA. Let’s not blame gun owners or gun militants for standing their ground. They’re loud and proud, but still just a minority of Americans.
Let’s instead use all the levers and tools of our democratic system to fix this, to represent the vast majority of Americans that favor stronger gun laws. Now and leading up to Election Day, November 6. And after.