The charade of Friday’s NRA press conference was best summed up by one of the last lines uttered at it by NRA President David Keene: “…this is the beginning of a serious conversation-We won’t be taking questions today.”
Of course, neither Keene nor NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre would be taking questions. This “press conference” was not the beginning of any conversation–it was a lecture.
They were there to enlighten us. They were there to make sure that we all understood that: "It’s not guns that kill people, it’s video games." It’s movies. It’s the media. It’s “monsters.” It’s a society that worships celebrities and money. It's greedy corporate executives and shareholders. It’s foreign aid to other countries. (These were all actually referenced by Wayne LaPierre during his rambling speech.)
The one thing that Wayne LaPierre apparently doesn’t believe is responsible in any way for the shooting deaths are guns. Not the guns used in the Newtown shooting that took the lives of 20 young children and 6 adults. Not the guns used in July to kill 12 and wound 58 in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. Not the guns used to kill six people at a Sikh Temple in August. And not the guns used to kill 94 more people in the US since the Newtown shooting. Yes, 94 more people have been murdered by gun violence since December 14. (And that number will likely be higher by the time you read this.)
Instead, LaPierre claimed that violence in movies and in video games like “Grand Theft Auto” contributed to gun violence. Yet he offered no explanation for why people who live in other countries where they watch the very same movies and play the very same video games as we do, have remarkably lower numbers of people killed by guns. For example, “Grand Theft Auto” broke UK sales records for fastest selling video game with over 600,000 units sold in its first day. However, in the UK, only 51 people were killed by guns in 2011. In contrast, in the US, 8,583 people were murdered by guns in 2011.
The real difference between the US and UK isn’t that they are watching different movies or playing different video games. It's guns. We have close to 300 million guns legally owned while the UK has only approximately 1.8 million guns.
What the NRA leadership should have said – and what I know from twitter some NRA members expected they would say – is that the NRA was going to embrace sensible “human safety” laws. (To me, we should stop using the term “gun control”–I’m not concerned with controlling people’s guns, I’m concerned with saving lives.)
At the very least the NRA should have called for a few common sense changes to our laws. The first and most obvious being to close the “gun show loophole.” Our current federal law only requires background checks to determine if the purported gun buyer has a criminal record or history of mental illness if the gun is sold by a licensed firearm dealer.
However, when guns are sold by non licensed dealers, which occurs at many gun shows, no background check is required. How often does this loophole apply? Shockingly, approximately 40% of guns sold fall into the "gun show loophole." How many guns are we talking about? Estimates are that literally hundreds of thousands of guns are sold each year to people not subject to a criminal and mental background check.
Only 19% of Americans polled want to keep the law that way. The problem is that the NRA leadership is part of this 19% and has lobbied to keep the gun show loophole intact.
How can any organization that truly cares about saving the lives of Americans ever oppose a law to ensure that the mentally ill and criminals are prohibited from buying firearms?
So what did the NRA call for at its press event? More guns. LaPierre proposed that every school in America should have an armed guard. There are roughly 100,000 public schools meaning a boon in gun sales to arm these new guards.
But here’s a glaring problem with the NRA’s proposal. At the horrific Columbine High School shooting in 1999 that left 15 dead and 23 wounded, there was an armed guard. A 15-year veteran of the Sheriff’s office was on the location. While he exchanged gunshots with one of the two shooters, he was unable to stop the shooting. How could the NRA leadership not be aware of this fact? And does this mean that every school would need two armed guards?
Will the NRA next suggest we have armed guards at every movie theater, shopping mall, Sikh temple, workplace, church – or any of the other location where mass shootings have recently occurred?
Clearly, the NRA leadership is not prepared to have an honest conversation on the issues about the role that GUNS play in the deaths of Americans. The one bright spot is that the rank and file members of the NRA disagree with the NRA elite on a growing number of issues, including 69% who favor closing gun show loophole.
The NRA leadership is at a crossroads. It can either begin to embrace policies that will save American’s lives or find the NRA marginalized to the fringes of American society. Which path will they choose? While I know that NRA leaders LaPierre and Keene aren’t taking questions right now, they may want to consider this one.
July 31, 2012
Businessman, philanthropist and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made his opinion known on the subject of gun control after the senseless massacre in Aurora, CO. An outspoken advocate for gun control in a state with arguably the toughest gun laws in the nation, it was no surprise he'd soon make his voice heard. Through radio, television, and the newspapers, he's urging the two major Presidential candidates to take a leadership role in America's gun problem.
"Somebody's got to do something about this," Mayor Bloomberg told Bob Schieffer in an interview for CBS' Face the Nation, which aired on July 22nd. "And it requires, particularly in a presidential year, the candidates for President of the United States to stand up once and for all and say, 'Yes they felt terrible, yes it's a tragedy, yes we have great sympathies for the families, but it's time for this country to do something.'"
"And that's the job of the President of the United States," the mayor continued. "I don't know what they're gonna do, but I think its incumbent on them to tell us specifically, not just in broad terms."
Really? President Obama and Governor Romney? The Mayor is a smart guy. He's a lot smarter than I am, but does he really believe that will happen?
Mitt Romney is going speak out? You mean the man who signed a bill banning assault weapons in Massachusetts, then appeared before the National Rifle Association vowing to protect their 2nd Amendment rights at all costs as he's running for President.
And President Obama? He's a Democrat and Democrats run from the gun control issue like scalded cats. And it's been longer than the three and a half years Obama has been in office. Some say it can be traced back to the 1994 mid-term elections when the Democrats took a butt kicking, courtesy of NRA-backed candidates.
I'm not saying Mayor Bloomberg doesn't have a point. He does. But we need to get serious if we want to know who's to blame for our failure to control our appetite for the gun. Then, we can fix the problem.
The knee-jerk reaction is to put all of the blame on the NRA and I'm also guilty of that one. But is it entirely true? Sure, they've been putting fear into any politician who even thinks of bringing up the gun control issue. And thanks to them, we have 25 states with "Stand Your Ground" laws or statutes, which allow any citizen legally carrying a weapon to shoot and kill another simply out of fear, real or imagined.
No they're not innocent, but...
And should we blame the politicians? Yes, you can say they don't have the courage to speak candidly on the issue. But you can also say we collectively don't have the sense to listen to the truth. We want to be told what we want to hear and they're all too eager to oblige us. Because they know they'll be punished at the ballot box if they don't.
Did you catch that? I just hinted at who I believe is to blame? Need another one? Quick, find a mirror and voila! There you are!
Yes, we are to blame. Collectively, if not individually.
According to Gallup, in 1996, 57% of Americans surveyed were for laws which would have made it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess semiautomatic guns, known as assault rifles. In the same survey, 43% were against such laws.
However, in 2011, the numbers are virtually reversed, with 53% against such laws and 43% for them. With the amount of gun violence we've experienced in our country over this time period, these numbers are unbelievable.
Everyone has beautiful words of comfort and prayers for the victims. I'm no different. My heart goes out to all of the victims, both living and those who were lost. But are we really angry about what happened? If so, what are we going to do about it? Will the victims be forgotten while the killer lives on in infamy?
Will the NRA again be to blame? We're supposed to be adults, so allowing someone to make our minds up for us with multimillion- dollar, fear-filled ads is ridiculous. If we used our own intelligence, their campaigns would be trumped by our common sense.
Will we blame the politicians? Who would stick his or her neck out for a policy "we the people" aren't really in favor of? Some would. Most won't. So that makes us all ultimately guilty for the carnage caused by our failure to craft a sane gun control policy or to enforce the laws already on the books.
I'm not one of those people who wants to eliminate the 2nd Amendment from the United States Constitution, thereby erasing responsible gun ownership. Such an attempt wouldn't get ratified, anyway. It also wouldn't completely eliminate gun violence. I'm not wishing for a utopia because it doesn't exist.
But what's wrong with doing what we can to reduce it? Is it wrong to restrict the massive firepower of assault weapons to trained law enforcement officers and our military personnel? And is it really unconstitutional to prevent anyone from purchasing 6,000 rounds over the Internet without question?
Maybe the next time this happens, you'll have to make a decision of which family member you can save first as the bullets fly. Or you'll have to use your body as a human shield for your loved one. Or maybe you'll be forced to cradle your infant daughter or son as you leap from a balcony to safety during the next armed assault by a crazed maniac.
And we should all believe there will be a next time in America's Slaughterhouse.
Lawrence D. Elliott is an author whose work has appeared in many popular books and publications, including 4 books in the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. A native of San Diego, California, he's lived in Germany since May of 2011. Visit his website at http://www.lawrenceelliott.com
July 28, 2012
Imagine if immediately after the attacks on September 11, 2001, President Bush shrugged his shoulders and told the nation, "There's nothing we can do to stop this kind of horror. If a terrorist wants to hijack a plane and fly it into a building, he's going to do it regardless of what we do or laws we sign."
And yet a week after a domestic terrorist slaughtered innocent men, women and children with an arsenal of military-style assault weapons, our political leadership is once again telling us that there is nothing we can do to stop this kind of gun crime, and that reinstating an assault weapons ban would not help prevent these horrific acts from happening again.
It is not just Aurora. Every year since 2001, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, approximately 30,000 people have been killed by firearms in America. And the reaction to this carnage has been to loosen existing gun laws, and to radically misinterpret the Second Amendment.
The National Rifle Association essentially harbors terrorists, by resisting any attempt to apply sensible regulations on gun use. The NRA wants almost anyone to obtain virtually any kind of gun and unlimited amounts of ammunition. Hunters don't need assault weapons or high capacity ammunition clips to shoot deer. These weapons and the ability to shoot more than 30 rounds at one time are for murdering large numbers of people.
The NRA is a massively funded lobbying group that politicians of both parties bow down to with timidity and fear. When you hear politicians say "the political will isn't there" for stricter gun control, what they're really saying is that they are afraid to stand up to the NRA. That's why the assault weapons ban, and the ban on high capacity clips, was allowed by both parties to expire in 2004. Democrats, like Carolyn McCarthy, who lost her husband in a mass shooting on the Long Island Railroad, and Frank Lautenberg have introduced bills to limit ammunition, but these bills garner little support.
The words that frustrate and infuriate me the most are from those in both parties who say now is not the time to talk about gun violence. After 9/11, if someone had said now is not the time to talk about terrorism, they would rightfully have been considered insane.
The conversation must start from the top. Although President Obama is inexplicably considered by right wing media to be a threat to gun rights, his administration has been given a failing grade by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The President's speech in Aurora was moving and compassionate, as was his speech last year after another terrorist attack killed men, women and children, and nearly took the life of Congresswoman Giffords. No federal gun legislation was enacted after that attack either.
The President said about Aurora, "If there is anything to take away from this tragedy, it's the reminder that life is very fragile." We are constantly reminded of the fragility of life, because approximately 33 people are killed in America by gun violence every day. What we need to take away from this tragedy is a renewed determination to, at the very least, begin an intense national dialogue on the causes of gun violence, and what steps can be taken to reduce it.
We must stand up to the fatalism, cynicism and ignorance of those who say, "There's nothing we can do. And no law will help." There is much that can be done. And we can demand that the political will be found to get it done. Instead of cowardly running away from the NRA and the issue of gun violence in the U.S., we must bring it up now, and bring it up loudly and forcefully. Those who vote against gun control legislation, or do nothing to promote it, even if they are liberal on other issues, should be challenged by pro gun control candidates.
And even though almost every Obama campaign advisor would tell him otherwise, the President must start the national conversation about gun violence right now. His speech to the National Urban League, where he called for reinstating the assault weapons ban, is a good start.
The American people are listening. And this time, they must hear more than the sounds of silence.
Scott Blakeman is a liberal political comedian and commentator, who appears regularly on FoxNews.com Live. He will perform his one man show "Liberal Jew" at the Lenox Town Hall in Lenox, Massachusetts on August 18, and the Grange Hall on Martha's Vineyard September 1. Twitter: @scottblakeman