Monday, April 1, 2013

An Open Letter to Gun Owners


Let me start by saying that this is not about taking away your rights to hunt or defend your family.  This is not about in any way infringing on your legitimate rights to own guns and use them.  What this is solely about is trying to stop the epidemic of gun violence against innocent people that is plaguing our nation, causing untold grief to tens of thousands of families each year.

Gun violence is not limited to the mass shootings that get national attention.  While such events are horrific, a far greater problem exists impacting large numbers of innocent Americans.  In 2010, for example, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans.  Roughly 20,000 of these were suicides; the rest were intentional homicides.  Only 5% were accidental shootings. In addition, 73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in 2010. 

Recently, I learned of a particularly moving example of gun violence.  A young man who was severely sight-disabled went outside with his guide dog to try and see a comet that was passing in the night sky.  While he was outside, a man leaving a neighboring unit after an argument with his girlfriend shot someone on the stairs.  Upon hearing the shot, the young man started to hurry back to his apartment.  Before he could get back inside, the distraught gunman shot him in the back and killed him.  He died on his kitchen floor, his guide dog howling beside him.

In the face of all of this unnecessary loss of innocent life and family grief,  how can you be against reasonable efforts aimed to lessen gun violence while not infringing on your legitimate right to own firearms for hunting and self-defense?  

Let’s look at the NRA’s arguments and your fears.  The NRA’s main arguments boil down to this:  No measure reducing access to guns is acceptable because any such measure is a first step by the government and gun opponents to ultimately removing guns from private possession.

This is patently nonsense.  There isn’t a politician alive, nor any but a small fringe of the gun control advocacy community, that wants to do anything more than control access to guns for the reasons I’ve stated without disturbing legitimate ownership and use for hunting and self-defense.

If this is the case, then why, you may ask, does the NRA, an organization you trust, take such a broad position?  The answer is that the NRA, which began as an organization of sportsmen, hunters, and gun collectors, has morphed into the prime spokesman and defender of the gun industry.  

Why?  More than half of the NRA’s funding now comes from the gun industry, rather than from the dues of its members.  And because the NRA can say that it speaks for gun owners ... a broad-based group of Americans ... it is the NRA who is front and center after each gun incident and in lobbying Congress, rather than the trade association of the gun industry.  And the gun industry is, not surprisingly, against any form of regulations that reduces sales and impacts their profits.

That is why the NRA is against a ban on assault-weapons.  These types of rifles and guns are not used by hunters or in self-defense.  But they are a major revenue source for the gun industry.

That is why the NRA is against a ban on magazines holding large numbers (100) of bullets.  Again, such magazines are not used by hunters or in self-defense.

That is why the NRA is against mandating background checks in all sales and improving the nature of the checks.  These would in no way hinder the purchase by hunters or your average home-owner, but it would dampen sales to criminals and mentally ill people who should not have guns, thereby decreasing sales and impacting profits.

That is why the NRA responded to the Newtown, CT massacre by saying that all schools should have armed guards.  This would require a huge increase in the sale of firearms to local government and thus benefit the industry’s profits.

Every position the NRA takes is in support of the gun industry, NOT in support of the sportsmen, hunters, and gun collectors who they claim to speak for.  But it is you, the NRA members, who have taken the public relations hit for being unreasonable on this subject, not the gun industry.

The time has come for gun owners to realize that they have been used and manipulated by the NRA and the gun industry for its own purposes.  You must speak clearly and loudly that you do not support the NRA’s positions and you are in favor of reasonable measures that reduce gun violence while protecting your legitimate right to own and use firearms for hunting, sport, and self-defense.

Gun violence can never be eliminated because, as the NRA is fond of saying, “people do kill people.”  People who legitimately own guns will on occasion end up using them in a way other than intended.  But the extent of violence can be greatly reduced through reasonable, effective laws.

Please support the modest gun control measures that are before Congress.  Call your Congressman today.