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by Mary Griggs

gun america

It seems to me that when folks quote the Second Amendment, they often forget the first part of it.

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

With President Obama signing 23 Executive Orders on gun safety the other day, you would have thought that the storm troopers were at the door instead of him doing his Presidential responsibility to uphold our Constitutional interest in the security of a free state by regulating against gun violence.

While a number of Chiefs of Police and Mayors (notably Ronal Serpas and Mitch Landrieu from New Orleans) came out supporting the orders as a good first step to address gun violence, a number of Republican legislators proposed bills that would make enforcing any gun control efforts illegal in their state (Texas, Mississippi, and Tennessee to name a few).

Even worse than the legislators (most of whom were bought by the gun lobby) who are seeking to nullify any efforts to curb gun violence was the tone-deaf response of the NRA:

Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.

The NRA stands opposed to anything resembling sensible gun control. As Douglas Anthony Cooper said in his 7 part series on Huffington Post on NRA vs USA: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The NRA would deprive you of the first and third, by redefining the second.”

The National Rifle Association no longer represents gun owners like me. Today, less than half of the NRA’s revenues come from program fees and membership dues.

The bulk of the group’s money now comes in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.

From the Business Insider article: since 2005, the gun industry and its corporate allies have given between $20 and $52.6 million to it through the NRA Ring of Freedom sponsor program. The NRA also made $20.9 million — about 10 percent of its revenue — from selling advertising to industry companies marketing products in its many publications in 2010, according to the IRS Form 990.

Additionally, some companies donate portions of sales directly to the NRA. Crimson Trace, which makes laser sights, donates 10 percent of each sale to the NRA. Taurus buys an NRA membership for everyone who buys one of their guns. Sturm Rugar gives $1 to the NRA for each gun sold, which amounts to millions.

The NRA’s revenues are intrinsically linked to the success of the gun industry so, of course, they oppose anything that would impact their income. They are a gun lobby and their presence in the debate has been a great way for the gun manufacturers to stay out of the limelight during the post-massacre news cycles.

Given that NRA doesn’t have the best interests of their members or even the rest of the population in mind, there are still a number of Americans that see any infringement on guns leading inevitably to only criminals having guns.

In my opinion, guns are tools. I believe that they can be a good equalizer when used for home defense but also that any tool is only as good as the tool and the user.

Look at it this way, we don’t just hand out the keys to a car to just anyone. You have to be at least sixteen years old and pass a test and drivers have to carry insurance, register their vehicles and obey the law. Manufacturers of cars need to make sure there are adequate safety measures, like seat belts and anti-lock brakes. None of this puts an undue burden on law-abiding individuals.

But what about the lawbreakers? Just because there are plenty of speeders on the road, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have speed limits. Just because some people drink and drive, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to prosecute those who put others at risk by their behavior.

Should we require anything less for guns?

Improving the background checks to not only close the gun show loophole but to include federal agencies into in the database (see John Stewart’s excellent piece on the NRA, GOP and ATF), will help keep gun ownership the purview of law-abiding citizens.

Those steps alone won’t mean an end to gun violence. Here in Louisiana, where an estimated 46 percent of households own a firearm, we have a gun death rate of 19.87 per 100,000. In 2007, Louisiana reported 823 gun deaths by both homicide and suicide, according to the CDC.

The national average of gun deaths is about 10 per 100,000, roughly half the rate of Louisiana. The lowest per-capita gun death rates were in Hawaii, with 3 per 100,000, and a household gun ownership rate of about 10 percent.

To me it seems pretty simple – more guns lead to more gun deaths but I don’t know that for sure (correlation doesn’t always imply causation). By the same token, those who point at violent video games and on screen carnage in films and tv shows as the culprit for an environment that leads to violence ignore the experience of Japan, where the death rate is .07 per 100,000 and they’ve got the same video games and tv shows.

Something else is at work. Research might provide us with some answers. It is important for us to figure out why the United States has so many of our citizens dying at the hands of their fellow citizens. I was glad to see President Obama empowering CDC and others to actually study and find out the reasons why massacres occur and how we can stem the tide of deaths.

Those orders aren’t the only solution. We must also reduce criminal access to military style weapons, armor piercing bullets and high capacity magazines. However, that will have to be taken up by the Congress, which has shown little will to do anything on this issue.

Some of it is money. The NRA bankrolls many politicians on both sides of the aisle.

I was glad to see that Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, are starting a foundation to counter some of that blood money. Their foundation, Americans for Responsible Solutions, needs our support to balance the influence of the gun lobby.

If the NRA doesn’t speak for you, help support those who do.