I know that violence in America is a complex issue with many causes and many opinions about each of them. I acknowledge all that. But let's just take this one cause of gun violence: Guns.
Yes, we all get that guns are inanimate objects and do not act on their own. However, the portability of them, the inherent danger of them, the availability of them, the ease of use -- all make it so much easier for people to kill people.
Cars don't kill people, either. And we all accept the common sense rules around car ownership and driving -- you need a license, you must wear your seat belts, you can't drive drunk. In many states, there are laws against driving while using your cell phone. How come people do not interpret these laws as infringing on their right to car ownership? Because these are rational ideas and for the common good.
And planes don't kill people. More annoying and still accepted are the rules that make airplane travel such a hassle. And while there is some public griping about these rules (including by me), by and large, these are also accepted as "for the common good."
Yet not so with respect to guns. Why? Money. Money that equals votes that equals power that equals more votes that equals more money that equals more votes that equals more power, ad nauseam.
The NRA is a powerful gun industry lobby and an effective marketing machine. It has too many people convinced that any rules -- obvious, commonsense rules, rules that are similar to those that Americans accept about other aspects of their lives -- are an infringement on their Constitutional rights. And with respect to the Second Amendment -- why is the "right to bear arms" aspect emphasized and the "well regulated militia" part is not? How have gun control advocates ceded that argument to the NRA? Since when did a "militia" come to mean "anyone who wants a gun"?
And those pro-gun laws that the NRA has been instrumental in paying politicians to propose and pass in state after state are the NRA's way at chipping away at gun control regulation and enforcement. "Stand your ground"? Seriously? Carrying concealed weapons into national parks? Why? And the push to allow guns on college campuses? Genius.
And now the NRA wants to force states to accept the (more lenient!) gun laws of other states by lobbying for the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 822). Republicans, what happened to your passionate defense of states' rights?
John Rosenthal's blog post in The Huffington Post last week does a much better job of spelling out the power and reach of the NRA than I ever could.
Please read it and you will find out things that will make your blood boil. How is it that this can happen -- over and over, in both state and federal governments -- when this is clearly against the public interest? Money.
And when the NRA is confronted with any kind of argument, it falls back on the old canard: "We have excellent gun control and anti-violence laws. It is just that they are not adequately enforced." Insincere and hypocritical nonsense.
- Gabby Gifford's shooter bought his gun legally.
- The man who killed a police officer at Virginia Tech last December bought his gun legally.
- The Trayvon Martin story shows the dangers of letting any cop-wannabe have a gun -- whether legally acquired or not.
- The Violence Policy Center (spend some time on its website!) put out a report that revealed that most mass shootings involved legally-acquired handguns.
- It also reported that "in the 10 high-profile shootings in America's schools from October 1997 to March 2001, handguns were among the weapons used in nine of the shootings. In eight of the 10 school shootings the guns were obtained from a family member or friend of the shooter."
- The AP did a piece on school shootings and where the kids got the guns. Let's assume all the guns were purchased legally. The owners were negligent about where they left their guns and how they "safeguarded" them. So, even if existing gun control laws are "enforced" and the owners are charged with "making firearms accessible to a child" or whatever the corresponding charge would be -- that would be small comfort the families of the victims. And of little use to the child who killed innocent people and now has to live with and pay the price of that.
There is no interest group or business that is motivated enough to be the "anti-NRA" or that can compete with the arms and munitions manufacturers and dealers, the gun shop owners, and ancillary businesses that do have a vested interest in ensuring that there are no obstacles to the sale of guns.
There is no anti-gun group with enough money to defeat the pro-gun money. There is a lack of will and desire to confront this issue in the state and federal government and no strong anti-gun leadership from either party. The only way left to fight the gun industry is through the voices (and votes) of the American people.