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.