While reasonable discussions about gun control have begun to occur following the tragic and senseless massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, one voice that can be discarded as irrational is that of the National Rifle Association, the country’s dominant pro-gun lobby.
On Friday, the NRA broke its silence about the Newtown, Conn., shooting. From the outset, NRA officials spoke lies and untruths. One of their first statements was that people have been “exploiting this tragedy for political gain” and that it was up to the very organization most responsible for our national gun crisis to “speak for the safety of our nation’s children.” NRA officials also accused politicians of wanting to make schools gun-free and therefore easy targets for “every insane killer in America.”
The NRA called on Congress to appropriate whatever is needed “to put armed police officers in every school in this nation.” The problem is that armed security guards are not a real solution. After all, there were two armed security guards at Columbine High School in 1999, and they did not stop that tragic mass killing.
Another NRA proposal was perhaps the most ludicrous idea yet advanced in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy — a nationwide database of the mentally ill. Consider that this very same group has fought long and hard against the creation of any gun database, including smart proposals to track gun ownership and ammunition purchases. Yet while the NRA has called such information collection an infringement on the individual liberty of gun owners, it now wants the government to mandatorily catalog everyone born with a certain medical condition. Perhaps the NRA would also like to have mentally ill people wear an identifier on their clothes as well, so they can be easily picked out of a crowd. This hypocritical stance is reminiscent of something out of Nazi Germany.
A response that considers mental illness is indeed part of any comprehensive solution to our national epidemic of gun violence. But the solution should revolve around getting people the mental health services that they need, not stigmatizing an entire portion of the population.
Here in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes the Bayview and Hunters Point and is home to far more than its share of gun violence, have started a rational conversation about deadly ammunition.
At the state level, lawmakers such as our own Sen. Leland Yee hope to crack down on ammo magazines and gun alterations that allow shooters to turn already deadly firearms into weapons of mass destruction that no American outside of law enforcement or the military should possess.
And on the federal level, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is wisely talking about bringing back the assault weapon ban. Sen. Barbara Boxer has introduced bills to provide money for security upgrades at schools and to make it easier for governors to use National Guard troops to protect schools and be reimbursed by the federal government for doing so. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of reviewing all of the gun laws on the books.
These conversations are occurring because rational Americans understand that our current laws are broken. Unfortunately, the NRA’s nonsensical proposals — most of which are based on the idea of using guns to combat gun violence — offer nothing positive to this conversation.
The NRA’s suggestions are so nonsensical that its comments should henceforth be accorded no more consideration than the views of creationists or climate-change deniers.