As the National Rifle Association’s annual conference hits Nashville this weekend with 70,000 expected attendees, the organization has good reason to be upbeat. For another year, it has succeeded in stalling legislative attempts at moderate gun controls, rolling back existing state regulations and winning media battles. But there’s a looming question that should be seriously concerning the NRA and its supporters: how to reconcile the organization’s agenda with new evidence on the prevalence of gun accidents involving children.
Over the past year, new studies and media reports have documented America’s extraordinary number of child-involved shootings. These occur when a child happens upon a gun, or is left alone with one, and ends up shooting themselves or another person. Such disasters result in hundreds of child fatalities and have made American children nine times more likely to die in gun accidents than children anywhere else in the developed world. These deaths pose a massive challenge for the NRA. They demonstrate fairly conclusively that guns cannot be both safe and ubiquitous; the inevitable consequence of widespread gun ownership is a never-ending series of tragedies involving children. But, desperate to insist there’s nothing wrong, the NRA has proved itself totally incapable of responding to the problem.
It’s not just that the NRA is incapable or in denial. It’s purposeful that the corporate gun lobby ignores the easy access to guns by children. They don’t seem to care and claim that just telling kids not to touch a gun will do the trick. Well, it doesn’t. That has been shown over and over in videos and studies. From this linked article:
Despite harrowing tragedies like Caroline’s death, the National Rifle Association iscommitted to expanding firearm ownership among children. The NRA’s recent convention in Indianapolis included a “Youth Day” to promote firearms for children, an event from which the media was banned. For years, gun manufacturers and the NRA have marketed firearms to children ages 5 to 12, insisting that programs such as the Eddie Eagle Safety Program ensure the safety of children. If they truly believe this, they are mistaken.
The overwhelming empirical evidence indicates that the presence of a gun makes children less safe; that programs such as Eddie Eagle are insufficient; and that measures the NRA and extreme gun advocates vehemently oppose, such as gun safes and smart guns, could dramatically reduce the death toll. Study after study unequivocally demonstrates that the prevalence of firearms directly increases the risk of youth homicide, suicide, and unintentional death. This effect is consistent across the United States and throughout the world. As a country, we should be judged by how well we protect our children. By any measure, we are failing horribly.
And when a 2 or 3 year old finds a gun, the idea that they could understand not to touch a gun is ludicrous. It’s no accident that the NRA ignores this. For when profits come before common sense and saving lives, the result is a nation of children shooting themselves, or another child who is often a sibling. Occasionally a bullet discharged accidentally by a gun held by a child hits a parent as well here and here. (These are just 2 of other examples)
Sure, the NRA has some good programs to train kids to use a gun for hunting but they claim that their Eddie Eagle program will do the trick to keep kids from accessing guns in the home. There is no proof of this. Young kids and guns just don’t go together. And, as the above article suggests, putting the burden of gun safety on the children themselves rather than the adults in charge is a bad idea.
Remember the young girl who was brought by her parents to a gun range to try out a machine gun? It ended with the death of the instructor. What an awful burden for that 9 year old to carry through the rest of her life. What were the adults thinking? When we have a corporate gun lobby that is more interested in making sure the next generation will be encouraged to buy guns than in the safety of that generation, that is what we get. This is just not happening in other civilized, democratized countries.
As a nation, do we have to be hit in the head before we decide to do something about our national epidemic of gun violence? What will it take before the gun lobby joins with the rest of us in truly trying to prevent at least some of the avoidable and preventable shootings of and by children? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. They are not toys or just an average consumer product. One of the things we recognize in this country is that safety and health measures need to be in place to protect our children from harm. If this means that more people come to understand the risks of having guns in their homes, we may actually manage to save some lives.
But the NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby ignore those risks because their messaging is all about the fear and paranoia of not having a gun in the home or strapped to your waist at all times. Young families with children are led to believe that without a gun in the home, they won’t be safe from whatever the heck people are afraid of. Burglaries? Most occur when home owners are not at home. Gangs?Zombies? The government? A crazy relative? Actual home invasions are frightening for sure and there are people who have stopped them with a gun. These incidents are more rare than children with access to loaded guns shooting themselves or others.
You may remember that I commented in my last post that not one of my readers made a comment about all of the accidental discharges of guns by law abiding gun owners or the access to a gun provided by a parent or family member, presumably a law abiding gun owner. That’s because those in the gun rights crowd want their loaded guns at the ready at all times and if locked up securely where kids and burglars can’t get them, they may not be available at that instant when someone comes to take away your guns or tries to break into your home. Which is the greater risk?
And further problems for the NRA, though they don’t see it that way, is that the term corporate gun lobby is employed by those of us in the gun violence prevention community for a very good reason. Check out the huge check for $600,000 donated by Smith and Wesson to the NRA for employee benefits. Follow the money.
Other things to watch for this week-end:
- How will those folks who pack heat deal with the fact that one of the venues for the convention will be a “gun free zone” where NRA lobbyists, leaders and their supporters claim people are unsafe and where killers go to do their shootings?
- All of the Republican presidential candidates will speak except one- Rand Paul. He was not invited apparently. I guess he’s too extreme even for the NRA folks having aligned himself with several other more extreme gun rights groups than even the NRA.
- Gun violence prevention groups are making sure the media and public know about the hypocrisy and extremism of the NRA.
- Ted Nugent, always good for his offensive statements, will be there but Sarah Palin, whose inane speeches have caused some attention at past NRA conventions, has canceled this year. This is from her “memorable” speech at last year’s convention:
“Well, if I were in charge,” she continued, as the audience erupted in applause at the prospect, “they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”
She criticized the administration for pursuing a national security strategy that, in her estimation, pokes “our allies in the eye, calling them adversaries, instead of putting the fear of God in our enemies.”
Palin also rallied the pro-gun audience to continue protecting their right to bear arms, saying their efforts are “needed now more than ever because every day, we are seeing more and more efforts to strip away our Second Amendment rights.”
Every year the NRA convention highlights the total lack of common sense when it comes to gun policy and our American gun culture. I’m sure this year will not disappoint.