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Who's Calling the Shots? It's the NRA...for now

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Despite Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association intends to continue fulfilling its role as a forceful representative of guns as opposed to gun owners. It's our choice as to whether this will be allowed to continue.


(Credit/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock)

I was once told that even in "the land of the free" there's perhaps only about five percent of what happens in life over which any of us has any real control. That could be true but if so, I wonder what the percentage was prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Probably much higher.

Regardless, whatever the percentage may be, it's largely determined by the fact that so many of the problems we face are those that we bring to ourselves. With only slight prodding, we easily relinquish significant portions of that tiny sliver of the control which we do have by surrendering to our own weaknesses, insecurities, and in many cases, to mind-boggling stupidity. Right now, for example, America is in the grip of a health crisis. We drink, smoke and eat way too much, and exercise far too little. This national lack of control over that which has the possibility of being controlled results in many of us needlessly leading lives of poor health and obesity which is likely to result in premature death.

There are endless examples of this kind of deliberate and seemingly senseless forsaking of control. Another case in point might be those head-in-the-sand types who choose to build expansive, beautiful, and costly shoreline homes, creating a stake for themselves amidst the breathtaking morning dawns like sitting ducks cluelessly awaiting the arrival of the next "Superstorm Sandy."

These observations stem from what I found to be a somewhat myth-busting incongruity involving rank and file National Rifle Association members and the leadership at the top. It's been reported that over 70 percent of the NRA's dues-paying members actually support many, if not most of the gun restriction proposals vehemently opposed by NRA leadership. This revelation was among the torrent of intriguing insights to emerge about the group following that other Sandy -- Sandy Hook. Apparently, most NRA members actually support ideas like concealed carry permits; criminal background checks for prospective gun buyers; a prohibition on the sale of guns to anyone on a terrorist watch list; closing the gun show loophole; requiring mental health evaluations; mandating that gun owners inform police when guns are stolen; and perhaps most surprising, bans on assault weapons -- all common sense proposals against which NRA leadership has worked tirelessly for decades.

Perhaps this incongruity shouldn't be a surprise. But what does seem surprising is how rank and file NRA members are able to get around the fact that the leadership of the group to which they belong could give a rat's ass about them as gun owners. The blind dedication they exhibit is to a group that represents the manufacturers of the guns being used to kill others including some who happen to be NRA. It suggests that rather than functioning as a cogent defender of 2nd Amendment rights, the NRA operates more along the lines of a sect. Here, its purpose is to cultivate the understanding of its dues-paying disciples about the necessity of acquiring more and more of the weaponry gun makers are dumping into the marketplace. And, by engendering this philosophy of cult-like endearment to all things guns, the NRA seems to have earned itself cult-like status.

The NRA's impact on American culture is inarguable. Guns are everywhere. Thanks to the NRA, nearly anybody can swing through a gun show and cop as many guns of any type without a license or a background check. The only thing the sellers are looking for is cash. Also at the behest of the NRA, there are places in America that encourage residents to pack concealed weapons including a town in Georgia where gun ownership is mandated . It's an NRA-backed law in Florida that encourages the use of deadly force to settle disputes rather than through police intervention or the courts. All you need do is claim to be "standing your ground." Florida is also appealing a judge's decision to block a law which makes it a criminal offense for physicians to offer their patients gun safety advice; all because the NRA considers it "an invasion of privacy." Thank you, NRA

Yet as is typically the case with cults and cultists, those caught in the fervor end up relinquishing a bit more of the control they have over that which is possible to be controlled. In this example, it's a loss of control over the likelihood of dying in massacres like the one at Sandy Hook.

Statistics from 2010 show that at the conclusion each day, guns will have been used to murder 85 Americans, more than 3 per hour. The carnage invokes a caricature of American culture expressed back in the 1960's by black militant H. Rap Brown : "Guns, baby; Guns!" It's true. Here in America, it's guns 24-7. We are this planet's resident paranoid lunatics; the five percent of the world's population that hoards more than half the world's guns. And though fewer Americans are buying guns, those who do are buying them in greater numbers . Brown was right. Like apple pie, guns are an entrenched American cultural value. Both have their place, but too much of either can have devastating effects. The outcome hinges on the firmness of the desire to exercise control.

For years, the NRA has functioned like an entity whose sole purpose for being is to rally -- to itself and ultimately to the gun manufacturers to whom it is primarily beholden -- the financial support of its membership, and to then use its massive financial war chest to wage war on sensible gun ownership policies. Yet despite the Sandy Hook massacre, other than recommending more guns in schools, the NRA has offered little to indicate a re-thinking of its resistance to the kinds of gun regulation favored by over 70 percent of its members. On the contrary, it seems determined to remain a more forceful representative for guns than for gun owners -- many of whom may one day become gun victims.

Indeed, the NRA's success in thwarting nearly every good faith effort at reaching a rational consensus on regulating guns has led to untold numbers of Americans meeting death with the same kind of needlessness connected to those of us who face premature demises brought about by too much drinking, smoking, or obesity. To apply NRA logic, excessive alcohol, tobacco and food consumption doesn't kill people; people kill people.

Perhaps the NRA is justified in its tireless 2nd Amendment apron-ducking and the rote carping of its signature rationale: "guns don't kill; people do" even if that implies that it cares more about the guns than the people the guns kill. And of course, from the standpoint of a gun being an inanimate object; they are right -- technically. But each time some NRA honcho mouths this claim, he or she is correctly describing a sinister exercise of the freedom of choice. Sure, the concept of unfettered gun ownership constitutes one portion of the tiny percentage of that over which we have control, but in this instance, it's the control over life and death, which is supposedly the province of a higher force.

Perhaps the time has come to tag the NRA as a quasi-terrorist organization. Or, maybe it should be declared a public health threat as we would a re-emergence of the bubonic plague. After all, what organization holds a greater degree of responsibility for the pandemic of gun violence in America than the National Rifle Association? Sandy Hook seems verification of this; illustrating how the NRA's usefulness as an rational defender of legitimate gun ownership rights has become as outdated and antiquated as the muskets, Flintlocks and "well-armed militias" which were central to the establishment of the 2nd Amendment way back in 1791.

So perhaps now is the time for the 70-odd percentile of rank and file NRA members who actually support reasonable gun control regulations to join us all in our effort to regain a greater percentage of the control we now have over prolonging lives, especially the lives of children. But they need to be mindful that the only truly effective course of action may be to swiftly and decisively kill the National Rifle Association; to eradicate it as we would any pox on society.

And the best thing about it is that like dieting for better health, it wouldn't take a gun to do it.


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Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer who leans toward the progressive end of the political spectrum. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to (more...)
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