NRA’s obstinate stance is deadly

Greed is often assumed to have been the foundation of the world’s major conflicts throughout history, but it’s not. Neither is hatred. Or deceitfulness. Or ignorance.
It’s obstinacy.
Obstinacy has been the cause of the most inhumane human behavior and the most powerful inhibitor of progress. It subjugated African-Americans into slavery just 140 years ago, prevented women from voting just a lifetime ago and sponsored the extermination of 6 million Jews only 50 years ago.
Obstinacy is the reason that people refuse to even consider another’s perspective. It is the reason that people contrive facts to defend their arguments when others disagree. And it encourages people to retro-justify their beliefs when they encounter scrutiny.
No organization or group of individuals has been so aggressive to defend its position, so unwilling to consider others’ perspectives and so presumptive that their existence is being threatened as the National Rifle Association. This is not hyperbole.
Shooting sprees have occurred in schools such as in Jonesboro and Columbine. People have been shot in their work places, as in Atlanta. Children have been shot in their community centers, like in Los Angeles. Teenagers have been gunned down in their places of worship, as in Fort Worth. And last month, three hospital employees were fatally shot after they failed to save the life of the suspect’s mother.
The NRA has maintained that guns played no role in any of these shootings.
When reasons for these tragedies were sought, the NRA contrived a defense because they perceived a threat to their organization. They insist that new, stricter gun regulations would not prevent further violence, because the role guns might have had in the incidents was due to the poor enforcement of existing laws.
Agreeing with the NRA, George W. Bush offered a ridiculous criticism of new gun regulations, attributing the shooting in Fort Worth to a “wave of evil passing through America.” It wouldn’t be fair to take this comment out of context, because he did express his desire for a governmental solution: “I wish I knew the law to make people love one another,” he said. “Our hopes and prayers have got to be that there is more love in society.”
Bush has ensured that while Texans are in their churches praying for more love in society, they can do so with the safety provided by their concealed weapons. In 1995 he signed an amendment legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons in churches, with some exceptions. He signed another law prohibiting cities and counties in Texas from suing gun manufacturers because he wanted to reduce frivolous lawsuits.
The leaders of the NRA are just as unreasonable. When Al Gore said, “I think that we should ban assault weapons like the weapons used here (at Fort Worth),” he was excluding guns used for hunting or protection. But James Baker, the executive director of the NRA, responded, “Al Gore wants a total ban on lawful ownership of handguns … he believes firearms have no place in society … he wants to ban them and take them away from lawful American citizens.” This is a gross exaggeration of what Gore said.
NRA members and some gun owners so ardently defend their right to own guns that they fail to understand that gun regulation does not need to infringe on most citizens’ rights to gun ownership.
There are several good reasons for gun ownership. One of these is the necessity for defense against a tyrannical state. But probably the only time they would be used in that manner was if the government threatened to take them away. Another good reason for gun ownership is that some guns are used to shoot inanimate objects for sport.
Often it is inappropriate for a government to prohibit its citizens from owning a certain good. But some products are inherently dangerous and need at least to be regulated.
Guns are devices to kill — not just to injure — a dog, a rabbit, a deer, a teenage male or a female attacker. Shooting schools teach that the gun is to be fired at the location on the body that would most quickly kill a target.
While slaughtering creatures for enjoyment is objectionable, self-defense is not. But the use of a firearm intending to kill an alleged attacker is a disproportionate response, and alternatives exist, or could easily be developed. Real, effective substitutions for safety are available, not just mace.
Guns are the most dangerous product available to consumers. It certainly would be prudent to ensure that they aren’t used improperly. Many of our products are licensed, including some that are significantly less dangerous than guns. If tragedies are to be prevented, guns should be used responsibly.
Gun control can work without being invasive. The NRA should understand that its existence does not have to be threatened by responsible gun regulation. They should also realize that guns are one component of violence in America.
The likelihood of further incidents of violence can be reduced by effective gun policies. But the NRA must overcome its obstinance and understand that the priorities of the nation do not have to conflict with its own.

Dan Maruska’s column appears on alternate Fridays. He welcomes comments at [email protected].