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Davis Merritt: Responsible NRA members must step up

  • Published Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, at 12 a.m.

The only tools available for Americans to do anything meaningful about our plague of gun violence are in the hands of members of the National Rifle Association.

As chilling as that might be to non-NRA members who yearn for sensible regulation of guns, it’s true. Congress members, presidents and government agencies and politicians at federal, state and local levels are fiscally cowed and morally handcuffed by calcified policies as articulated by the NRA’s leadership.

Claiming to speak for more than 4 million members, CEO Wayne LaPierre and president David Keene have been laying out, since the Newtown massacre, a non-action agenda as internally inconsistent as it is hypocritical. It goes like this:

•  Blame Newtown and other mass shootings on video games, the news media, moviemakers, songwriters, a lack of guns in every “good guy’s” hands, and mentally unstable “monsters,” but not on the easy availability of weapons and ammunition designed specifically to kill a lot of human beings in mere minutes. Those are wrapped in the Second Amendment.

•  Have Congress pass a law requiring armed guards in every public school. Never mind that conservative philosophy abhors the idea of the federal government mandating educational policy to state and local school boards.

•  Do something, for heaven’s sake, about all those untreated mentally ill people and felons roaming around, but do not, for the same heaven’s sake, require background checks on customers by those who freely sell anyone any gun at shows all across the nation. Continue legislation that prohibits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying the issue of mental health and guns, or any other public health issue involving guns.

•  Simply “enforce the laws now on the books,” including background checks of purchasers by gun stores – perhaps the most disingenuous declaration of all since NRA-backed legislation ensures that those records are destroyed within 24 hours, leaving no way to monitor enforcement. Continue legislation that stops the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from creating a central directory of gun transactions.

•  Ignore the fact that while the NRA’s membership fees pay some $14 million to the organization annually, gun makers contribute far more.

•  Condemn “vicious, violent” video games but deny any causative link to mass shootings. Ignore the fact that gun makers, in a cynical piece of cross-marketing, allow the video game companies to depict their semi-automatic weapons in the games where players amass kill totals of hundreds a day, and keep arguing that there’s no connection when a gamer shows up on the street killing people with that very gun.

It’s not only unlikely, it’s not credible that 4 million NRA members, or even most of them, support such convoluted and reckless hypocrisy.

The NRA leadership group, which has removed itself from any meaningful discussion of this major American problem, needs to hear from those members who cherish the Second Amendment, enjoy hunting and sport shooting, and desire to protect themselves and their families but do not share the leadership’s extreme views and irrational fear that the U.S. government is going to confiscate every gun and enslave us all.

Being heard doesn’t mean dropping membership or withholding dues, though that might ultimately be necessary. It means responsible NRA members working from within and enlisting nonmembers to reform the NRA and bring it into the mainstream of American thought.

Davis Merritt, a Wichita journalist and author, can be reached at dmerritt9@cox.net.

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