The NRA leadership tries to pin all the blame for mass murders on mental illness or video games or the fact that teachers aren't packing heat in the schools.
Rejecting the more responsible views held by the majority of its own membership, the NRA leadership continues to support unlimited access to military-style weapons that have no real purpose in civilian life and pose unacceptable dangers to innocent victims and to law enforcement first responders.
This NRA's extremism in the face of common sense suggests that it has become the marketing arm of the gun industry, or the political arm of insurrectionists, or both. You know that there is something radically wrong when the stock prices of the major gun manufacturers rise sharply after a school massacre.
A sane gun control policy is necessary both to avoid frequent massacres and to reduce our high ambient rates of homicide and suicide.
Responses to my previous blog posts have been informative, not for the quality of their reasoning but for a tone that is extremely passionate, sometimes bullying, and usually far from the facts -- but always completely self-assured.
Below are the most frequent arguments offered to support free access to assault weapons, and my responses to them.
- Myth: Guns don't kill people; people do.
Reality: People with guns kill people -- and the more powerful the gun, the more efficient the killing.
Reality: Existing laws allow the sale of assault weapons and the sale of guns without background checks at gun shows.
Reality: Nothing in the Constitution discusses what types of arms citizens are permitted to own. Would the NRA argue that private citizens can ride to work in tanks, carry grenade launchers and flame throwers or patrol their neighborhoods with weaponized drones? Take this to its illogical extreme: Does the Second Amendment guarantee our citizens the right to own nuclear devices? We have to draw the line somewhere to prevent civilian ownership of military weapons. Restricting assault rifles is just common sense.
Reality: A good guy one day can become a bad guy the next -- particularly under the influence of substances or the stress of domestic conflict or job loss.
Reality: Mental patients are responsible for only a small percentage of violent crime. It is not possible to predict with any precision who will become violent.
Reality: It is a good idea to control media violence, but this will be difficult and provides only a very partial solution. First off, there are First Amendment rights that make media control as tough as gun control. And remember that humans were violent before there were movies; they just didn't have the firepower now so readily available. We can't prevent all violence, but we can reduce the damage any given killer can do.
Reality: More guns in schools will just increase the risk that some of the people carrying them will go berserk and turn them on the kids.
Reality: Family members in gun-owning households are more likely than their non-gun-owning neighbors to die in a gun-related accidents, suicides or homicides.
Reality: Now that the country is keenly aware of the risks of assault weapons, it is only a matter of time before we return to sane legislation controlling them.
Reality: That's what they said about Big Tobacco 20 years ago.
Saner gun control will inevitably be driven by the accumulation of gun deaths. Legislators who reap the short-term political advantages of supporting assault weapons will feel increasingly ashamed and guilty as the murders of innocents pile up.
The moral and politically smart thing is for legislators to move the issue before they become indirectly responsible for tens of thousands additional avoidable deaths.
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