A time for sane gun debate
By Jim Poling Sr.
The hard rock façade of The National Rifle Association (NRA) is starting to crack. And that’s a good thing.
The NRA, the world’s self-proclaimed No.1 defender of the right to bear arms, has become the No. 1 obstacle to stopping the never-ending gun violence in the United States. Its efforts to block sane gun control laws have extended into other countries, including Canada.
Now there are signs that some of the NRA’s four to five million members are beginning to question the association’s reason for being. There is growing conflict inside the NRA over whether it has wandered far from its original mission of promoting shooting sports and gun safety.
The NRA is no longer a shooting sports and gun safety organization. It is a far right wing political party with only one goal: Elect and influence politicians who will oppose any gun control legislation that will reduce the gunshot slaughter in America’s streets, homes, schools and houses of religion.
There have been roughly 17,000 gun violence incidents in the U.S. during the first four months of this year. That’s more than 4,000 a month, 140 day, or six every hour. Roughly 4,500 persons died in those incidents, another 8,300 were injured.
Doubt my figures? You can find them documented at www.gunviolencearchive.org. The site includes a U.S. map with red dots indicating locations where gun violence has occurred. The map looks like the back of a child infected with measles.
Cracks in the NRA’s stern, uncompromising attitude were seen at its recent annual convention in Indianapolis. The NRA board ousted Oliver North (he of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal) as president because of feud between he and Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s chief executive.
The NRA has deep financial problems and its tax exempt status is being investigated by the state of New York, whose attorney-general has called it a terrorist organization.
The NRA was founded after the U.S. civil war as a sporting club dedicated to teaching marksmanship, gun safety and promoting hunting. But in the 1930s it got into lobbying, even supporting limited gun control.
All that changed in the 1970s when new leadership opposed to federal gun controls changed its main purpose into lobbying for gun rights and fighting gun controls. And, they did it in a loud, uncompromising way.
Charlton Heston, the actor and NRA president, became famous for his use of the phrase “from my dead, cold hands,” implying that’s the only way the government would take his gun.
NRA messaging has become even more aggressive since. NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch has said the NRA bears no responsibility for curbing gun violence and has vigorously attacked Democrats and the news media.
In 2016 she called the mainstream media “the rat bastards of the Earth ... I’m happy frankly to see them curb stomped.” Two years later when a guy with a shotgun killed five people in a Maryland newspaper newsroom she said she was not encouraging violence against journalists.
The NRA has a history of poking its nose into Canadian gun control debates. Heston attended a British Columbia Wildlife Federation meeting in 2000 and condemned our federal long-gun registry.
In 2005, an NRA strategist visited Canada to provide “political action” training in advance of an upcoming Canadian federal election.
Our federal government now is studying whether and how to ban handguns and semi-automatic weapons. Despite its mounting problems, the NRA no doubt is again providing long-distance advice to Canadian anti-gun control groups.
Canadians don’t need any connection to the NRA, certainly not until its internal civil war returns it to its original mission of promoting sport shooting and gun safety.
The United States and Canada – in fact every country – needs effective and reasonable gun controls. This can be achieved through civil and informed debate with all sides willing to compromise, not with the mad-dog rhetoric of the NRA or other gun rights groups.
Step One here in Canada surely has to be recognition that smuggled, illegal guns are a main cause of gun violence in our country. Step Two should be recognition that shooting sports are an important part of Canadian life and need to be protected uninformed and unreasonably harsh calls of “ban all guns” advocates.