Editor’s Note: If you maintain a well-appointed arsenal of heavy weaponry and have six months worth of food and water stockpiled in your basement in anticipation of the imminent breakdown of society, this letter is not addressed to you. Please pass it along to that neighbor of yours who likes to go hunting sometimes. Thank you.
Dear Responsible Gun Owner,
I’ve been seeing it all over the place lately, on Facebook and Twitter and other online forums; a lot of you are feeling persecuted. I see a lot of you railing against people (like me) who want to talk about gun regulation: “Why do they hate us?” and “It’s not the gun’s fault, why are they mad at the guns?” For the record, I’m not “mad at” you personally, or the guns per se. But we do need to talk. Honey, it’s about your friend Wayne. He’s really a problem.
The screenshot above is from a real-live firearms enthusiast’s forum. Clearly, it even seems to be occurring to Mssrs. Riflemaster3000 and MegaGunDude99 (names changed to protect the innocent) that the NRA and Mr. Wayne LaPierre may actually be more to blame for the anti-gun sentiment in America than actual guns or gun owners themselves. That’s right: yes, there are lots of people “mad at the guns,” but the truth is, you have a PR problem, responsible gun owner, and its name is the National Rifle Association.
The town of Columbine is a mere half hour from Denver proper. It was an unfortunate coincidence for the NRA that their convention happened to be scheduled there less than two weeks after the Columbine High School massacre. After all, it’s not as if they planned their gun party around a school shooting so that their appearance in town could cause the maximum amount of emotional distress to the locals. But nevertheless, cause distress it did. Representatives from the city of Denver pleaded with the NRA to postpone or move their convention. They refused. The gesture would have been appreciated by a local community traumatized by the Columbine shootings, and would have cost the NRA nothing, since the city was even offering to pay for losses incurred as a result of doing so. And yes, the community’s objection was about the guns, but it also wasn’t: if the massacres had been perpetrated with golf clubs (which would have been pretty weird, but let’s pretend) and there was a high visibility golf club convention coming to town a scant two weeks later, the city of Denver would have probably asked for the same thing. But the late Mr. Charleton Heston’s idea of sensitivity was to treat America to a defiant speech about the divisiveness of anti-gun rhetoric that really stopped just short of victim-blaming. This has been pretty much emblematic of the way this organization has chosen to represent you ever since.
This is because, really, they aren’t representing you. Controversy, after all, spurs more gun sales. I wonder who might benefit from that.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, Wayne LaPierre used his press conference to blame just about everyone and everything for gun violence except guns (though amusingly enough, he had the room swept for guns before he came out to speak. Shouldn’t he have had it swept for people?) … and then after blaming “society” (ie, “us”) for several minutes, followed it up with a call for more guns in schools. Guards with Uzis! Teachers and janitors packing heat! Creative solutions that involve … oh, uh… more guns. Again, does this particular position benefit you, responsible gun owner? Unless you are the CEO of a gun company or owner of a local firing range, probably not.
Fast forward to this week. Their requisite sham-meeting with Vice President Biden was interrupted by… wait for it … another school shooting. For most people this would represent an epic fail. For the NRA, it’s just another excuse to get mad on TV about the government coming for your guns.
Meanwhile in Tuscon, AZ, home of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, the city held a completely voluntary gun buyback, collecting 206 guns in total (an impressive number considering Tucson is the Gun Capital of Everywhere). NRA members stalked the event, trying to outbid the Tucson P.D. for these guns and to their surprise, getting no takers. Naturally, they then threatened to sue the police department to prevent it from destroying those poor, defenseless guns. A voluntary gun buyback becoming the precursor to “jack-booted government thugs” marching in missile parades down Congress Street is something that could only happen inside the minds of people who really don’t listen to anyone but themselves.
These are people who think it’s in good taste to throw a “National Gun Appreciation Day” on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death. (Did we mention that there are apparently almost no black members of the NRA?) Insular isn’t even the word.
It’s like Wayne LaPierre is constitutionally incapable of showing sensitivity in the wake of a tragedy, or adult behavior in the face of his “principles” being rejected. And the problem, gun owners, is that many people conflate you, the largely reasonable, responsible folks that you are, many of you who grieved along with the rest of us after Sandy Hook, with these poster boys for insanity, for man’s inhumanity. You wonder why there’s so much gun hate, and whom the “anti-gun” people are mad at? That’s a good place to start.
If I may humbly suggest something, you might want to cancel your NRA membership; there are other gun enthusiast organizations, ones that don’t make a habit of embarrassing you at parties. Most states have other sporting and/or hunting associations, or collectors’ associations if that’s more your thing. Maybe your membership money doesn’t matter to Mr. LaPierre, but doesn’t that underline the point that just maybe, he’s not really representing your interests? Controversy might be great for gun sales, but it sure has a way of tarring regular, reasonable people such as yourself.
This would be a difficult issue regardless, because we are navigating a problem that is real and trying to do it without interfering with a part of the Constitution that is particularly vaguely-written (and also grammatically strange, has anyone else noticed that?), but every time there’s a gun-related tragedy, NRA leadership gets beset with Tourette’s and come out to rub rock salt in everyone’s wounds on TV. It’s really not helping. In fact, it’s probably making some anti-gun people want to come for all your guns. Just out of spite.
And spite is probably not the best motivator for making public policy.