Another mass shooting happens in Orlando and all the predictable responses emerge. “Ban assault weapons.” “If someone had been armed, they could have stopped it.”
Some of these responses are worthwhile and some are nonsense. I’m not going to rehash them. There will be plenty of people doing that over the next few days or weeks, with the usual results: not much.
Let’s try something new. Let’s ask the NRA to step up.
I don’t mean the leadership. That won’t happen. Take executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre: in office for 25 years, earning around $970,000 per year as of the 2010 IRS filing.
He just might have a vested interest in appealing to the crowd that pays his salary, rather than approaching this situation with compassion and common sense. Fear-mongering is very good business.
So when I say “the NRA,” I mean the millions of regular members. Lots of them sport the bumper sticker that says “I am the NRA.” That’s right, you are. You’re the ones we need the most right now, not LaPierre or board members such as Motor City Madman Ted Nugent.
I have a suggestion for you, the members of the NRA. But first, let me establish some credibility here. I am a gun owner, somewhere between the person who owns one gun for personal protection and a real collector. I’d rather not publicly advertise how many I own, but it’s more than a few. Handguns, rifles, shotguns. I handload ammo for about ten different calibers. I’ve worked part-time as a range safety officer and salesperson at my local range. I like to hunt. It’s nothing for me to put 1,000 rounds down-range in an average month (I keep stats.) I have a concealed carry license. I’ve shot an elephant gun (not at an elephant, I was helping a custom builder sight it in at the range.) My favorite pistol is the Browning Hi-Power. My favorite revolver is the .44 Special. My favorite shotgun is a 16 gauge L.C. Smith side-by-side (belonged to my great-grandfather.) And I own an AR-15, because it’s very accurate, ammunition is readily and inexpensively available, and I never tire of the recoil as I do with some larger calibers.
I’m not currently a member of the NRA, although I have been, for many years.
So here are my suggestions for you, the NRA rank and file:
1. Stop listening to that blowhard, LaPierre. We should have gotten rid of him after the “jackbooted thugs” comment back in 1995. He’s making huge money, preying on your fears. Who knows if he even believes half of that nonsense, so long as it keeps the money – your money – rolling in.
2. We already have background checks for all sales through an FFL (federally licensed firearms dealer, for the non-gunnies in the crowd.) Why not background checks for all sales? Go to an FFL, pay a small fee, the proprietor runs a check, it’s done. I sure don’t want to risk selling a firearm to a criminal or someone with a disqualifying mental condition, do you? Here in North Carolina, and I believe we’re not the only ones, if you have a concealed carry license, you don’t have to have a background check.
3. We have to take training to get a concealed carry license. It’s a great idea. I learned a lot. Why not have training for any firearms owner? It would make that argument about the meaning of “well-regulated militia” carry a lot more weight, wouldn’t it?
4. It’s not enough to point out how many millions of us don’t use guns for crime. It doesn’t erase the slaughter caused by those who do. We have to accept this ghastly truth.
5. Stop with all the rumor-mongering already. For instance, so many of you started stockpiling everything even remotely firearms-related when Obama was elected president, prices skyrocketed on guns, most ammunition became scarce or unavailable (including the lowly .22LR), and even primers were almost impossible to find. And yet over seven years have gone by, and Obama hasn’t taken a single gun from any of us. If you don’t feel foolish by now, you must be living in fantasy land.
None of these suggestions involve registration, confiscation, or banning a specific class of arms. They take what many are already doing to the next step, that’s all.
I know, from years of being around fellow “gun nuts,” that the overwhelming majority of us are good, decent people. Educated. Hard-working. Reliable neighbors. Community-minded. The average scared-of-guns sort of person doesn’t know that we live right next door because they feel perfectly safe around us.
Words can no longer convey the desolation I feel over the innocent people being lost to this violence. I’d like to say more, but I just don’t know how.
If we don’t come up with ways to try to reduce these heart-wrenching tragedies like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and the Pulse shooting, eventually people who don’t know the first thing about us or our guns will do it for us. It’s not enough to express our grief over the senseless loss and chant “More guns, less crime.” I’ve said that myself. Now, I’ve had to stop and look for better solutions, because it rings more and more hollow with every drop of blood. Sooner or later, sooner rather than later, that blood will be on our hands if we keep on selfishly doing nothing.
Photo: Several shooters at the Media Day at the Range event held the day before the 2009 SHOT Show held in Orlando, FL. Photo by TAC6 Media. | (CC)