The NRA seems fixated on two things: “protecting” the Second Amendment to the Constitution by stopping all gun legislation, and promoting useless slogans.
As I have said before, if there were no gun violence in American, there would be no attack on the Second Amendment. The amendment works just fine when guns are in the hands of responsible owners. The best way for the NRA to defend the Second Amendment is to work to end gun violence. Not only will that save the Second Amendment from the slings of gun control advocates, but, it will win the NRA accolades from the entire nation – gun owners and critics alike.
“I'll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands”, declared former NRA president, Charlton Heston. But here’s the thing – I don’t want to pry the gun from Heston’s cold (now actually dead) hands. I doubt many people did. I don’t want to pry the gun from Wayne LaPierre’s very much alive hands. My bet is that LaPierre is an excellent marksman who takes his gun ownership responsibilities very seriously. I have no problem with LaPierre owning a whole rack of guns. But I do have a problem with Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik (the San Bernardino terrorists) getting guns. I do have a problem when guns fall into the hands of James Holmes (the Aurora theater shootings), Adam Lanza (Newtown Sandy Hook Elementary School), Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (Columbine High School massacre), Christopher Harper-Mercer (Umpqua Community College shooting), Dylann Roof (Charleston church shooting), and on and on.
Today the NRA is promoting their tired idea that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” They continue to spout this line even though it is demonstrably not true. Even if it were true, it puts quite a burden on good guys who might have guns but might not want to get involved in a firefight with a bad guy. Furthermore, it promotes vigilantism. Do we really want self-proclaimed “good guys” patrolling our streets? Besides, unless they are wearing a uniform and a badge, it can be very hard to tell the difference between a good guy and a bad guy when they are pointing a gun at you. Furthermore, if a cop tells a criminal to drop his weapon, the “bad guy” knows that the officer is trained, backup is on the way, and if you kill a police officer the justice system will show no mercy. However, if a citizen “good guy” confronts an armed “bad guy”, the “bad guy” might just decide to take his chances in a showdown – endangering both the “good guy” and innocent bystanders.
But most important, what we really want is to stop “bad guys” from getting guns in the first place. No one wants to counter bad guys with good guys; we want to stop the situation before it starts. Worse yet, the soundbite that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”, puts an end to the legitimate search for other solutions. If that is “the only thing”, then there is no point in trying to find other ways to solve the problem.
So, here we are. There is terrible gun violence in America. There is the Second Amendment protecting the right to keep and bear arms. There is the NRA defending the Second Amendment instead of championing responsible gun ownership. Now what? The NRA isn’t going away, nor should it. (See my post on why you should join the NRA.) We live in a country where special interest groups have a right to exist – be it a gun owners group, a cooking club, or collectors of Britney Spears memorabilia. The Second Amendment isn’t going away either. The judiciary has upheld the Second Amendment – though I disagree with their assessment (See my take on the language of the Second Amendment.) To change it would require a new constitutional amendment, but there isn’t the political will, nor the votes among the electorate, to make that happen. Even if there were, it would take years to propose and pass.
I have a proposal that I believe would allow the NRA to meet all of its goals – promoting responsible gun ownership, helping its members, and protecting the Second Amendment – while working to end the tragic misuse of guns. It doesn’t impact the Second Amendment in any way and it leverages the NRA’s role as advocates for gun safety and responsible gun ownership. Under my proposal, the NRA would work as partners with federal and state governments, and the American people, defending the rights of gun owners while stopping the “bad guys” from getting firearms.
The Second Amendment to the constitution says that “…the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” That has been the sticking point in all efforts by the Federal government to regulate weapon sales and ownership (with certain exceptions), and the courts have upheld that restriction. But, states appear to be able to regulate gun sales within their borders, and certain other aspects of gun ownership and transportation – this is why we have a patchwork of gun regulations varying from state to state. But most significantly, the Second Amendment in no way restricts non-governmental organizations from interceding in the gun sale process. [I don’t entirely follow the legal arguments as to why local governments can enact some kinds of gun legislation while the federal government can’t, but that is beside the point here.]
Therefore, I propose the following:
- Each state would enact one new law (which could stand alongside existing state laws, or could superseded them, as the individual states desire.) The law would require that guns may only be sold by vendors that are licensed, authorized, inspected, trained, and approved by the NRA.
- The NRA, as the nation’s leading experts on gun safety and responsible gun ownership, would establish rules for gun purchases by their member stores. These NRA rules would apply nationwide. The Federal government would provide data to determine if a potential gun buyer is unfit based on criminal record, age, mental status, etc., but it would be the NRA that would manage the interaction with the government.
- The NRA would also be responsible for tracking ownership of guns that are sold under their aegis. Thus, they would be able to determine if someone is building up an arsenal of weapons – or, as experts on the subject, if a buyer who has many guns is simply a collector. Since all stores in every state would confirm their sales through the NRA, it would be the NRA, not the Federal Government, tracking guns at a national level and raising the red flag if someone starts accumulating stockpiles of weapons and ammo.
- To stop “strawman sales” and illicit alterations to guns, and to make sure that firearms weren’t lost or illegally transferred, the NRA would require gun owners to have their guns inspected once a year. Gun owners could have their guns inspected at any NRA office, or NRA approved gun store, or at any law enforcement office (in which case law enforcement would provide the information about the inspection to the NRA.)
It is very fair to ask, who will monitor all these gun stores? Well, who spends a lot of time in gun shops? Gun owners. Many of whom are NRA members. They will be the “good guys” who will help to make sure that gun stores are acting responsibly. Since any customer could be watching for unapproved sales activity, licensed vendors would tread very lightly. The police and FBI would still have the responsibility to stop arms traffickers, but the NRA and its membership would police legitimate stores.
There are those that might say that this is putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. But I believe that the NRA has a vested interest in stopping firearms getting into the wrong hands. This proposal also financially benefits the NRA and gun store owners. The NRA would have a strong incentive to make the system work and to innovate new and better solutions to the problem of gun violence. With the NRA leading, coordinating, and certifying such a program, any decrease in shootings would win them praise. Should gun violence worsen, it would be on their heads – and put the status of the Second Amendment back in jeopardy – a result that the NRA would not like to see.
I am sure that there are enhancements and refinements that can be made to this proposal. I look forward to hearing suggestions for making this idea into an even more effective strategy for bringing an end to gun violence in America.