Friday, December 28, 2012

Critical Time for the NRA

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Friday, December 28, 2012

By Bill Gouveia

            Wayne LaPierre is the leader of the National Rifle Association (NRA).  He appeared on the popular Sunday morning television show “Meet The Press” last weekend to discuss the NRA’s response to the renewed call for stricter gun control laws in the wake of the horrific Connecticut school shooting. 

            Mr. LaPierre’s response on behalf of one of the nation’s most influential lobbying organizations was both predictable and disappointing.  He had no problem apportioning blame for what most everyone agrees was one of the most tragic events in American history.  He blamed a lack of security in schools, he blamed a lack of morals in the country, he blamed Hollywood, he blamed the video game industry, and he blamed the nation’s mental health system.

            He blamed pretty much everyone – except guns and their availability.  He apportions absolutely no blame there.  Not a bit. 

Far worse, Mr. LaPierre and his organization refuse to even discuss the subject.  They will not contemplate the possibility – however remote in their minds – that tougher gun laws could possibly result in a somewhat safer and less violent America.

            Of course, that’s what Mr. LaPierre gets paid to do.  He is a hired gun (pardon the pun) for the NRA.  His job is to blindly and politically support their narrow view of the 2nd Amendment and help elect officials who will do the same.  He has one solution and one solution only to the problem of violence with guns – more guns.

            The NRA is proposing an armed guard be placed in every school in the United States.  He says it is a common sense solution that is obvious and reasonable.  He says parents want and deserve the security he claims this would provide.

            He may be right.  Personally, I have my doubts.  I’m not sure it will work, I’m not sure it is practical, and I’m not sure it is intelligent.  But in the wake of 26 dead people killed by an assault weapon taken from a private home, I’m willing to discuss it.  I’m willing to consider it.  I’m willing to have it debated on the national stage.

            If only Mr. LaPierre and his devoted followers were equally willing to debate that with which they do not agree.

            The head of the NRA and his organization refuse to agree to debate the possibility of stricter gun control laws.  He dismisses out of hand the possibility it might prevent even one death.  He says the NRA will not participate on the panel to be convened by Vice President Biden.  He refuses to even consider any changes to current gun laws because he claims they will not work and will not help.

            It is outrageous this man, representing millions of honest and responsible gun owners, would go on national television and say such things.  He knows there were armed guards at Columbine.  Yet he pushes the solution of armed security wholeheartedly, while dismissing any attempt at banning the awful weapon that killed 20 innocent schoolchildren. 

            I’m not asking Mr. LaPierre or the NRA to agree to any new gun laws right now.  But I hope they care enough to at least join in the discussion.  They have made a good suggestion, one that deserves honest consideration.  It should be given respect because it stems from what I believe to be a sincere desire to save lives and protect children.

            Now it is time for the NRA to give gun control advocates that same measure of respect.  Mr. LaPierre and his organization should be a vital part of the national discussion on gun safety and availability.  They know and understand better than anyone the power and importance of powerful weapons.  They bring a perspective to the table that is both invaluable and representative of many Americans.

            They do their members and the country a grave disservice by merely retreating into their familiar and thus far invincible political shell.  They need to do more than arrogantly tell us laws which have not even been formulated yet will not work.  They need to talk to us, instead of at us.

            This is a moment of truth for the NRA.  They now must choose to be either a part of the solution, or a part of the problem. 

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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