Saturday, December 14, 2013

Neuter the NRA

December 14, 2012 was my 52nd birthday. In more than a half-century of living, I never felt such deep sorrow, anger and confusion as I did that day. That was the day a 20-year-old man named Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, shot his way through a glass window, entered the school and shot and killed eight boys, 12 girls (all between the ages of six and seven) and six women who worked at the school. He shot his victims multiple times (he shot one boy 11 times) then shot and killed himself.

Adam Lanza did all this in just 10 minutes, firing hundreds of rounds from his mother’s Bushmaster XM15-E2S, a 5.56mm semi-automatic rifle that fires about 45 rounds a minute. It’s basically a civilian model of the M16-A2 I was issued in the Marine Corps without the fully-automatic capability.

The incident hit me harder than even 9/11. As horrific as the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were, I could at least make sense of why terrorists would attack us. It’s more difficult, if not impossible, to make sense of the Sandy Hook massacre. Like many Americans, I’ve tried to make sense of it all. I think of it often, particularly when I help my son get ready for school; wrestle, play and laugh with him; watch him put on his backpack, walk out to and get on the school bus, and immediately miss him and look forward to when he gets home.

But what if he never came home? What if me and his mom received a call later in the day to inform us that our beautiful, smart, wonderful happy son was brutally and horrifically murdered at school, his body ripped to shreds by bullets, along with 19 of his classmates and six adults? I can hardly bring myself to even think about it.

The people of Newtown lived it, and they will likely re-live it every day of their lives. They will never see their children again. I don’t know how they cope.

I doubt it’s something our nation’s founders could even fathom back in the days of muskets when they crafted the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Having served in a Marine Corps Force Recon unit and being a hunter, I have spent a good amount of time around guns; I am very familiar, effective and proficient with a variety of deadly weapons. In the Marines I was issued various rifles for different tasks, most all of them specifically designed to fire a lot of rounds quickly and efficiently kill a lot of people in a short amount of time. The NRA likes to claim that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and a person inclined to kill could kill people with a baseball bat. True. But nobody can kill 26 people in ten minutes with a baseball bat. This is why I was issued M16s, MP5 HK 9mm submachine guns, M60 machine guns, M203 grenade launchers and other potent, deadly weapons in the Marine Corps and not baseball bats.

I’m not so na├»ve as to blame a gun for what happened at Sandy Hook. There’s obviously more to it than that. There’s no doubt mental health issues were involved as well as the unfortunate dark side to human nature and behavior. But the gun played a role; a huge role. It enabled Adam Lanza to kill 26 people in 10 minutes.

Do we Americans have too easy access to deadly weapons? Would we, as a society, be safer if we further controlled access to firearms and banned certain weapons? Would it be a violation of our Constitutional rights to do so?

The NRA and the gun and ammunition industry accuses those of us who promote further gun restrictions in response to Sandy Hook as exploiting tragedy for political gain. I disagree. I think we have a moral obligation to examine such issues and do whatever it takes to try and prevent such a horrific tragedy from ever happening again. I don’t pretend to have answers, but as a society we should and must collectively have rationale, reasonable discussions about such issues. But the NRA stifles debate through bullying, fear tactics and perpetuating lies and distortions of truth. (See Lies and Distortions from the NRA)

The NRA does an admirable job at promoting the safe, responsible use and handling of guns. There was a time they were a rationale, reasonable organization. But they have grown into an arrogant, uncompromising political powerhouse that defends the rights of people to own pretty much any sort of weapon they desire -- not because of Second Amendment rights, as they deceptively claim, but because they have become an arm of and public relations firm for a huge, powerful, wealthy and influential gun and weapons manufacturing industry. They have purchased our Congress to do its bidding through money, threats and intimidation. It's about profit, not the Constitution. And so they feed people lies, distortions, and misconceptions to rally flag-waving, so-called "patriots" to protect industry profits under the guise of "Constitutional rights."

Despite the fact that Presidents as diverse in views and policies as Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton supported stricter background checks to purchase guns and bans on certain types of weapons, the NRA and gun industry now viciously attack any politician who even suggests such legislation and accuses them of being “anti-Americans” trying to “destroy” our Constitution and American way of life.

But there have and always will be restrictions on Second Amendment rights. Even our nation’s founders, who crafted and approved of the amendment, often fervently disagreed on it. Constitutional scholars, politicians, and others have had many rationale, reasonable, heated debates over it ever since. I am not allowed to have an M60 machine gun, an M203 grenade launcher, an M1 Abrams tank, a LAAW (Light Anti Tank Assault Weapon), Stinger anti-aircraft missile or a nuclear warhead. Those all seem like reasonable restrictions to me. We all draw the line somewhere. Where does the NRA and its supporters draw the line? And why is it they think that wherever they chose to draw the line is what the rest of our nation should accept -- and that any restrictions that cross their line is unConstitutional? Our founders were smart enough to establish a Constitution that could adapt with changing times, and they set up a process in which we the people could collectively change things through a democratic, legislative process. To further adapt and refine our 2nd Amendment is not a violation of Constitutional rights.

But the NRA and gun and ammunition industry have hijacked the system and effectively silence debate through money, threats and intimidation. The current NRA leadership even defies the wishes of their own members. A poll of NRA members conducted last summer by GOP pollster Frank Luntz showed that NRA members and gun owners overwhelmingly support background checks and other common-sense measures that would help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and keep Americans safe. Yet the NRA – no doubt following orders from the industry – fought viciously against common sense regulations that most Americans support and desire.

The NRA and gun and ammunition industry have controlled our Congress for too long. It’s time for all Americans to speak out. We need to demand that our elected officials listen to we the people. We need to show the NRA and gun and ammunition industry that they don’t run this nation – we do! It’s time to neuter the NRA.

1 comment:

  1. Dave,
    I read and commented on your most recent post regarding wolves - an excellent piece BTW. Like I mentioned in my comment, I am not a hunter but can appreciate those who hunt responsibly. But I am a multiple gun owner, a dedicated conservationist, somewhat liberal leaning and I love my country - particularly the outdoors and mountains here in the West.
    Having said that, I am against most gun control - especially when it appears to be directed at responsible owners - but I am also against corporate influence of any kind that skews the facts to serve a selfish end.
    Regardless, even though I don't agree with some of what you have said your rationale and well thought out logic is something that is needed in a lot of these debates - from both sides.