In recent days, following the publication of my guest column on Aug. 1, there have been letters published in response to my comments concerning guns and the leadership of the National Rifle Association.
Let me state from the outset of this response that I respect the rights of my fellow citizens Mr. Doenges and Mr. Weaver to express their viewpoints regarding gun ownership and gun control. Further, let me note, especially to Doenges’ remarks that I believe the exercise of our First Amendment rights is among our most cherished of rights and the amendment stands second to none among the greatest of our constitutional freedoms.
Having stated that, however, let me now turn to the heart of my response.
First, let me state, Mr. Doenges, that it was you, not I, who implied that my remarks were intended to “tar-brush,” if you will, the entire NRA membership. That, to be charitable, is a poor, misguided understanding and interpretation of my remarks. Your work as a firearms safety instructor is both commendable and emblematic of the efforts of many local NRA chapter members whose work on promoting gun safety, safe hunting programs and other worthy programs are equally laudable.
No, my wrath was and remains aimed squarely at the senior leadership of the NRA, men like Wayne Lapierre, the chief executive officer. For more than a decade, he has led an effort to systemically oppose any discussion, let alone passage, of even the most moderate of gun control measures.
Under his leadership and others at the highest echelons of power in the NRA, millions and millions of campaign-style contributions have been given to our elected leaders to perpetuate and foster a gun culture that is both alive and flourishing.
For the most part, fortunately, this has been an effort carried out by law-abiding civil minded citizens, such as yourself and your fellow writer, Weaver. However, it is an undeniable truth that the efforts of the NRA leadership have now created such an environment where our country is “awash” with weapons of all caliber and ammunition to match. Among these weapons, gentlemen, are what forms the backdrop of what I refer to as the reckless elements of the gun culture.
Weapons such as the AR-15 and other semi-automatic assault rifles, derived from military stock whose sole purpose was to maim and kill humans, have no place on our streets, let alone the darkened halls of a movie theater.
To support your viewpoints, gentlemen, you have made claims of statement of fact. Facts, gentlemen, are stubborn things, and I believe now is an appropriate time to present you and others with some that are relevant to the debate over gun ownership and the need for gun control in this country.
Since 1968, more than a million Americans have been killed through acts of gun violence. In fact, on average, more than 100,000 of our fellow citizens are shot or killed with a gun annually in this county. In what can only be seen as a macabre accomplishment, such killings, in fact, have placed America at the top of firearm deaths reported in the world, with nearly 80 percent of these occurring in the United States in recent years.
Yet, in the face of such statistics and in the wake of recent gun tragedies, the NRA plows forward with its efforts to arm America with devastating consequences. Today, there are more than 300 million firearms of all types and caliber in America, and sales of new weapons appear to be unabated. In 2009 alone, more than 14 million guns were sold, many of these at gun shows or from private sales where little or no background checks are required or conducted.
And from state capitols to the halls of Congress, politicians, placing short-sighted narrow self interests of election or re-election, continue to ignore calls for even discussion of gun violence and gun control.
Mr. Doenges, it is not as a matter of inherent distrust of govenrment for which I comment here. Rather, it is the growing awareness of Americans, from all stripes, including a growing number of NRA rank and file, who have recognized the need to re-invigorate the gun-control effort and have our nation’s leaders, from the president on down, to once again, if in fact the time had ever passed, for sincere and whole-hearted effort at bringing about better, effective gun control to this country.
To be certain, there are brave public servants who have and continue to champion this cause, even in the face of terrible political pressure. One such representative is Carolyn McCarthy, who embarked upon a public career in the aftermath of a massive gun tragedy that saw the killing of her husband and the maiming of her son aboard a commuter train in 1993.
Her voice has remained steadfast and her efforts are resolute in attempting to curb the worst of our gun culture. She will not be silenced or crushed by the NRA, and millions of average Americans, like myself, shall continue to raise our voices in support as the calling for gun control can and will be heard again.