The gun lobby, once upon a time

HookI think we can safely say that we are living in a fictional fairy-tale like world when it comes to gun deaths and gun safety in our country. Like Peter Pan, we are pretending that the real world is not what it is. We fly around from place to place looking for what’s real but we aren’t landing on the real problem. Captain Hook , Peter Pan’s nemesis, is revengefully presenting evil choices whenever he encounters Peter Pan. Sometimes Hook gets what he deserves but he keeps showing up anyway. Much like the corporate gun lobby and it’s ludicrous fictional fear and paranoia foisted on some unsuspecting political leaders and some in the public who actually believe in the myths expounded by the lobbyists and gun extremists.

Will we ever grow up?

Once upon a time we at least tried to deal with the carnage- when the Brady Law was passed in 1993; when restrictions on assault weapons were seen as reasonable for public safety. When average citizens weren’t carrying loaded guns around in public places.

Once upon a time the corporate gun lobby agreed that requiring background checks on all gun sales was a reasonable and good idea to prevent people who shouldn’t have guns from getting their hands on them. Let’s take a look at the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre on the subject:

Once upon a time the NRA was an organization that supported hunting and shooting sports for the average gun owner- people like my grandfather, my own father, my mother, my uncles, my brother and my husband. They took safety classes and had hunting guns for recreation and family togetherness.

That was then. Now the response to our nation’s mass shootings and every day shootings- arming everyone everywhere, including in schools is this jaw dropping response to the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 first graders by Wayne LaPierre( again); 

Sigh.

But something happened when the extremist gun rights advocates took over the organization in what is now called the “Cincinnati revolt” at a 1977  NRA convention. And what we have now is something very different from the origins of the NRA. From the article:

“We must declare that there are no shades of gray in American freedom. It’s black and white, all or nothing,” Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at an NRA annual meeting in 2002, a message that the organization has reiterated at almost every opportunity since.

“You’re with us or against us.”

Once upon a time we could have shades of gray about gun policy. It was a given that we wanted to prevent shootings and save lives and people from both political parties could agree that the problem needed to be addressed. Today it’s black or white according to the NRA’s leadership. The problem with this is that most of their own members agree with the gun policy changes that have been proposed in the wake of the many mass shootings and everyday carnage.

Once upon a time toddlers were not shooting themselves or others in weekly shootings. But now that there are so many guns in circulation owned by people who don’t have any idea how to deal with loaded guns  a toddler is shooting either him/herself or someone else weekly.

Once upon a time, President George H.W. Bush belonged to the NRA. And then a statement was made about “jack booted government thugs” and formerPresident George H.W. Bush resigned his membership with a public statement:

The NRA used the the Oklahoma City bombing and the standoff and siege in Waco, Texas, in order to fundraise for itself in 1993 (while President Clinton was in office). And it denigrated upstanding people who protected the public in order to do it:

“In Clinton’s administration, if you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.”
Wayne LaPierre, 1993 NRA fundraising letter

And what’s more, the NRA lost members because of this extreme position and began their deceptive rhetoric about their membership numbers by including members who had died in their membership roles. So who are included in the membership roles of the NRA? Of course, legitimate gun owners who happen to believe in the organization and may or may not know or understand what the organization is really about. But those who like to target shoot at gun ranges must become members of the NRA in order to belong to the gun club or gun range. I have several friends for whom this is true. Their views do not agree with those of the leadership and lobbyists of the NRA. They just like to shoot at the range.

What does this have to do with today’s gun culture and gun policy? When the gun lobby uses ramped up numbers to claim that they represent anywhere from 4-5 million gun owners, elected leaders listen. But then, we also know that only 1 in 10 gun owners belong to the NRA so the fairy tale needs to be exposed in order to loosen the grip the corporate gun lobby has on our gun policy. Requiring NRA membership to join gun clubs has both an upside for the organization and a downside. Some object to having to belong to the NRA because they are concerned with their positions opposing any reasonable changes to our gun laws. But if we follow the money, we can find the upside for the organization. From the linked article above some Connecticut gun club members resigned their gun club membership:

A dozen or so members decided to quit the club rather than join the NRA, he said. Some who left said they disagreed with the group’s uncompromising stance on gun control. Others said they just didn’t want to be told what to do, or objected to paying $25 to the NRA on top of their annual club dues.

89 Americans lose their lives every day because of gunshot injuries from gun homicides, suicides and “accidental” shootings. That is 89 too many. This is not a fairy tale. This is the truth. Dealing with the public health and safety epidemic of gun violence must be based on the truth and the facts. Dealing with it from the point of view of the corporate gun lobby, whose heavy handed influence on our nation’s gun policy is based on fiction and fairy tale-like assertions, is dangerous and appalling.

Real people are dying every day leaving behind families and friends who are living with the loss of a person they loved. Common sense is fact and based on the truth. We can’t let important national and state level gun policies be based on fiction. Lives depend on knowing the truth and the facts on the ground.

Luckily there are more fact finders than ever before revealing the truth about the corporate gun lobby’s fiction. And because the public is fed up with the gun lobby and daily carnage, the landscape is changing. We have reached a tipping point. Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign wrote this piece for CNN telling the truth about what is happening:

Turns out we have been asking ourselves the wrong questions. No single incident, no matter how horrible, and no statistic, no matter how shocking, is going to change things by itself. What is going to change things — what always does — is when the American public comes together, based on common goals and common values, to say “enough!” And that is exactly what is happening, finally, on the gun violence issue.

(…) Meanwhile, there is also overwhelming public support for change, which only continues to increase. An astounding 93% of the American public, including 90% of Republican voters, more than 80% of gun owners and more than 70% of NRA households support expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales. The disconnect between the American public and the politicians who are supposed to be representing us is becoming increasingly clear. Simply put, pressure is mounting on policymakers to finish the job the Brady Law started. (…)

We’re almost there. The American people have had enough. Enough of the mass shootings, enough of 89 people dying every day, and enough of a small group of craven politicians putting the interests of a corporate lobby ahead of our safety.

We’ve had enough of the fiction promoted by the corporate gun lobby. The public understands that it is guns that are taking the lives of too many Americans no matter what the gun rights extremists would love us to believe. We can’t continue basing our policy decisions on this “Emperor ‘s new clothes” fictional view of what is actually happening in real life everyday.

The gun lobby’s sometimes invisible influence on our politicians is now more visible than ever for public scrutiny. But interestingly enough, according to a new Gallup poll, the NRA is still viewed favorably by the public but the public also wants laws like expanded background checks. This is the result of the fairy tale that the NRA has gotten away with telling for far too long.

There is a disconnect between the public perception of the current NRA and what its’ leaders and lobbyists are doing behind the scenes to oppose the very things their own members and the public want. Let’s hope the “emperor” will be revealed for what “he” is.

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