Since moving to Ohio in September, I’ve found myself on the mailing list of the National Rifle Association. I’m not sure if it’s because I bought an archery set for my daughter at Cabela’s, or enjoy wearing my Carhartt jacket, but something signals America’s gun manufacturers that I fit their demographic (White? Check. Male? Check. Mentally Unstable? Unproven.). The latest mailing arrived the day before a Florida teenager took his legally-purchased AR-15 and shot up the high school that expelled him. It was a sweepstakes and membership appeal with a letter from NRA President, Wayne LaPierre, who wrote:
“Everywhere you look, our gun rights are in the crosshairs of freedom-hating leftists who say Americans like you should be disarmed and defenseless.”
While I may be a freedom-hating leftist, I’m mostly agnostic when it comes to guns. I didn’t grow up with them, but have many friends and loved ones who are gun owners. The cache of weapons offered by the NRA sweepstakes, however, seems excessive. There are ten prize levels, all with guns, including an AR-15, and the Winner Take All Grand Prize is a veritable mass murder starter kit – 41 guns, including 13 assault rifles!
There’s no national interest in limiting the ability to own guns for hunting, target shooting or personal protection. If I felt a gun would make my family safer, I’d get one in a heartbeat. Fortunately, our family dog is a pretty fierce Aussiedoodle who’ll take down any would-be assailant, especially if he has cheese.
While, personally, I’d like to see military weapons reserved for the military, I can support knowledgeable, competent people using them. But the burden of proof must be on the shooter to prove he or she is sane and qualified.
At 16 I was able to drive a car. First, though, I had to take a class and pass a test to prove I could. I wasn’t assumed to be qualified just because I reached an age and had never been diagnosed with a mental illness. Even when I had my license, my right to drive was limited. I couldn’t drive a semi truck or a school bus, for example.
There needs to be a higher bar for possessing military-style weapons. At the very least, make a shooter prove they are competent and legally allowed to own a gun capable of killing so many people in a very short time. This needs to happen before anyone gets a gun. It is too late to start checking after another and another school shooting.
This is such a modest ask. Put the burden of proof on shooters BEFORE they can buy or possess an assault weapon.
But Wayne LaPierre, my gun-runnin’ new pen-pal, won’t allow even a common sense law like this. That’s why, while I have no problem with gun owners, I have a huge problem with the NRA. That’s not a contradiction. I mean, I hate PHRMA but enjoy many of their products. So, too, do I find PETA activists annoying, yet love my dog.
The NRA boasts “more than five million members” but just a handful have a say in policy decisions. These NRA “super-delegates” have familiar names: Smith, Wesson, Colt, Browning, Winchester, Remington and Glock. Gun manufacturers, not members, set the NRA’s legislative proposals and choose which Senators to buy.
A wide majority of NRA members support common sense gun reforms, but the gun sellers won’t endorse any idea that limits their customer base. The only sympathy the gun industry feels when a kid shoots up a school is if he uses a competitor’s rifle.
As for the sweepstakes, I went ahead and entered. It only cost a stamp and us freedom-haters need to stay up to date on what Wayne LaPierre thinks of us. I’m not sure what I’ll do if I win the 41 guns. They seem to have a Gollum-like hold on some people, like once you hold a gun, the fear of having it taken away suddenly supercedes all other concerns. So, odds are, I’ll probably build a bunker and start shooting stuff.