If you want to know what NRA talking points were circulated after Newtown, just look at the comments in any forum like Facebook, or Huffpo, or NYT, or a “gunner” forum. A few examples:
An AR-15 isn’t an assault weapon because it isn’t full-auto! Yes, Virginia, it is an assault weapon. If it makes you feel better to split hairs, sleep tight. But the real deal is that a military-spec weapon designed to inflict maximum carnage is an assault weapon. If you think it is the same thing as a 3-shot fixed mag hunting rifle, then why don’t law enforcement officials carry those to defend against AR-15s?
The real problem is that we have a “mental health crisis”! Tell me more! Please hand over a list of dates where the NRA gave testimony on mental health issues to anyone, ever. Who is their lead lobbyist on mental health issues? Credentials? Produce a single mention of “mental health crisis” from an NRA publication prior to 12/14/12. I spent the past 12 years receiving American Rifleman, so please keep the photoshopped crap in your mom’s basement where you made it.
The last assault weapons ban was a failure! Really! That is shocking since the NRA spent considerable funds and effort gutting it and ensuring that it would be toothless and counterproductive.
And that is my “top 3” from the meta-spam crystal ball. You might not believe it but I have a great deal of sympathy for gun owners and gun retailers. The shift in attitudes on gun ownership is happening, and it will be accompanied by a shift in public policy. Ever try to register an ATV for road use? A Caterham? How about a road-legal race car? If you have, have you been able to insure it, as required by law? See, you can drive an Ariel Atom, legally, but there are rules and a cost and some of those costs are dictated by accident data and actuarial tables. That’s why you don’t just wobble on down to the Cessna dealer and take off in a small plane. That’s why you see a lot of golden-agers driving supercars and M5-class sedans, but not so many 19 year-olds. Regulation happens. Cars. Airplanes. Alcohol. Tobacco. Firearms. Explosives.
Extra Credit: The focus of the NRA on the concept of a “ban” is a red herring. A “ban” is a non-starter, but keeping the narrative on a “ban” means that bandwidth is being stolen from productive dialogue. When you hear “ban” it might help to picture Wayne LaPierre with his fingers in his ears, shouting “NANANANANANA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!!!!”
In what is becoming a kind of trend, Reason and Politics has written an entry in response to today’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Josh wrote a piece that I could have written almost verbatim and it would be entirely accurate. Please give it a read.
I grew up around guns, was educated on their destructive power well before being educated about their use, and as a result did not grow up as a “gun nut” or even a “gun romantic”. My father was involved in competitive target shooting with the US Army, and that was the tradition I was handed. We weren’t hunters, plinkers, or military enthusiasts. We were paper-punchers, specifically practicing the discipline of “bullseye” shooting. Around here it is represented in the main by 50-foot indoor gallery competition with .22 caliber pistols. It is the firearms equivalent of the chess club. But even from that small bore tradition, I have had to do a lot of soul searching about my relationship with a sport, a technology, a government, and a group of psychotics called the NRA.
An NRA membership was a requirement for membership in my local range, and I didn’t think much of it 15 years ago. Then I started getting their political mailings, and I honestly looked for anything other than fear mongering in their propaganda. I found nothing of any use. I have engaged some NRA type folks on the topic and it was frighteningly like reading those mailings… a lot of hot air and fear-baiting and basically zero facts. Also, zero tolerance for discussion. A hard line, no debate ideology.
Like almost every other aspect of my life, I believe in voting with my voice, my wallet, my feet, etc… And with the NRA I voted with my wallet when two years ago I made the conscious decision to let my NRA membership lapse, and now my voice. The spectre of an assault weapons ban is, and I don’t think this is breaking news, the prime motivator of many NRA members and the NRA leadership. The main reason, I believe, is because they couldn’t win an honest debate on the issue. Same for magazine capacity limitations and barrel length and automatic fire capability, and so on. What the NRA is saying is that despite being powerful enough to snuff out all attempts at regulating guns in the United States, they fear that once they yield on any point it will cause a domino effect of regulation. Their supposed show of strength is actually a show of weakness.
Each individual needs to make their own path through this tragedy. I make the choice to start walking the walk as well as talking the talk. I hate to say that I am not even sure where to start on engaging a progressive and effective route toward gun control. I know that it doesn’t mean a wholesale firearms ban. I also know that in the US of A we are kinda stupid and everything ends up being some kind of “all or nothing” debate. As long as both sides remain extreme on this issue there will be no effective legislation. Sounds a lot like our fiscal cliff showdown, unfortunately.