Did you see the story in today's New York Times about a pastor who is holding a "bring your gun to church day"? Outrageous. But the real thrust of the article was the growing power of the National Rifle Association, which the article noted is "widely considered the country's most powerful lobby."
I know something about the mythical "power" of the NRA. I took them on -- and beat them -- twice in the 1990s as the president of Jim and Sarah Brady's Handgun Control, Inc (now the Brady Campaign). With a lot of hard work and organizing, we passed the Brady Bill, which requires background checks before someone can buy a handgun, and the assault weapons ban (which has now lapsed).
But the NRA looks like it is on the rise again. Federal instant background checks, the best indicator of gun sales, jumped 42 percent in November 2008, compared to November 2007. The NRA reports its membership is up 30 percent since November, and several states have recently passed laws allowing gun owners to carry firearms in more public places.
Most alarmingly, the gun lobby has succeeded in convincing some Democratic Party leaders that renewing and extending common-sense gun laws is politically dangerous.
Well here's what's really dangerous: Every day in America more than 80 people die from guns and another 200 are wounded. Over the course of the year, that's more than 29,000 Americans killed from gun-violence, and over 73,000 wounded.
We need politicians who are willing to take on the NRA -- which is far less powerful than it appears -- and impose sensible controls to protect the public and save lives. We need to bring back the assault weapons ban, close the gun show loophole and more -- not less.
In my campaign for Manhattan D.A., I have proposed several common sense law enforcement measures that would allow us to crack down on illegal guns. Parents who think there may be an illegal gun in the home should be able to call in law enforcement, who will search for the gun and, if it's there, take it away without filing charges. And law enforcement along I-95 should join together to go after illegal guns at their source, rather than waiting for them to get to our streets.
Of course, even sensible proposals like these get attacked by the NRA. But that is par for the course. I am confident that if we band together, we can make sure that our cities, states and country have effective, reasonable gun control laws that will maintain the right to bear arms, but protect innocent victims from tragic gun violence.