87% of you agree that support for 2nd Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
79% of you say that gun-shop employees should undergo criminal background checks.
75% of you believe in denying concealed carry permits to applicants who have committed violent misdemeanors.
74% of you support criminal background checks on all gun purchases.
74% of you think gun permits should only be granted to those who complete gun safety training.
71% of you believe that people on the terrorist watch list should be prevented from purchasing firearms.
68% of you support restricting concealed carry permits to people who’ve never been arrested for domestic violence.
65% of you believe gun owners should be required to report lost and stolen guns to the police.
63% of you support restricting gun ownership to people 21 years or older.
So why does the NRA leadership consistently oppose such sensible gun regulations that would undoubtedly save lives and which most of its own members support?
Could it be because most of their funding comes from gun manufacturers and not NRA members? Could the fact that gun sales consistently increase after every mass shooting have something to do with it? Is there some chance that this gives them a financial incentive to make it as easy as possible for dangerous individuals to get their hands on deadly weapons?
When you look at a political candidate’s NRA rating, do you just check the letter grade or do you look into the specific pieces of legislation that the candidate voted for or against? A candidate may agree with any of the reasonable regulations listed above that you yourself support, but they will vote against them every time because they believe it will cost them your vote.
I fully support your right to own a gun. Hunters should be allowed to hunt, citizens should be allowed to defend their property from intruders, and all people should be allowed the capability of protecting themselves from violent attacks. I may not choose to hunt or defend myself and my property with a gun, but I believe in the ideal of personal liberty and will defend your right to make your own decisions when it comes to firearms.
But I also teach at a public school, and what happened in Newtown, Connecticut this past Friday is the worst kind of horror imaginable. The school I teach at happens to be in Japan, where gun laws are the strictest of anywhere in the world, and I can’t deny that knowing it’s nearly impossible for anyone to get a gun makes me breathe much easier when it comes to the safety of my students.
I recognize that none of the regulations above may have prevented this particular tragedy. But in America an average of 30,000 people are killed by guns each year, while in Japan it’s less than 50. If enacting some of the regulations that NRA members themselves support can save a few hundred lives each year, why not do it? If enacting regulations NRA members support can save just one innocent child each year, why not do it?
The politicians who have the power to do something will only do so if the NRA allows them that political flexibility. But the NRA leadership is not going to do that without massive political pressure, and they’re not going to respond to pressure from the outside.
If we really want something done about the epidemic of gun violence in this country, the pressure is going to have to come from you, the members of the National Rifle Association. You are going to have to be the ones who step up and demand that your organization listen to you for a change instead of the gun manufacturers who profit from more gun violence.
I know that while we may come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, most of you are good, compassionate people whose hearts are just as broken over the tragic deaths of those children in Connecticut as everyone else. If your compassion can move you enough to move your own organization to allow the passage of some kind of gun regulation that will save lives, then at least some good can come out of this senseless tragedy.
Nothing will ever make up for the grief those families are going through, but at least we can try to give them the comfort of knowing that their children’s deaths were not completely in vain—that the changes we made to our gun policies in the wake of their devastating loss prevented at least a few other parents from having to endure the same suffering.