The National Rifle Association, more commonly referred to as the NRA, has finally broken its silence over the massacre which took the lives of mostly school children in Newtown Connecticut. In a statement posted on its website and their Facebook page, the powerful gun rights lobby group said:
“The NRA is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
The statement, though short, provides for interesting reading.
The political atmosphere in the United States of America appears to be vastly different after the Newtown slaying. The recent Aurora shooting and others this year shocked America and further fomented the gun control debate worldwide. But those displays of violence, though tragic and disturbing, had little impact on the domestic debate in the United States of America.
Now, quite possibly because so many young children were taken prematurely, both Democrats and Republicans, however few, are coming out in support of a change to gun laws.
Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce a bill which will again ban assault weapons, 100 of them by name at least, which have removable clips. And the President has now announced that he supports the Feinstein bill, a similar legislative move to the ban on assault weapons which was brought into force during the Clinton administration but allowed to lapse.
But back to the NRA statement. What does it potentially reveal? And what could the mixed messaging in the two sentence statement actually point to in terms of action?
The first part of the first sentence is replete with NRA chest-beating. It seeks to remind Americans that they have 4 million members in the United States of America. The sentence also points out that the NRA membership is made up of people who have sons and daughters and that are sons and daughters, just like the majority of those killed last week.
Of course too, there was the obligatory expression of sympathy in the second part of the first sentence.
And then the first part of the next sentence attempts to explain the delay in the response from the lobby group. The trouble with this is that regardless of the facts of the case, the expression of sadness has been unnecessarily delayed. It is abundantly clear that the public had been expecting to hear from the organisation much sooner than today.
But it is the very last part of the statement, the last sentence, which has provoked the most interest. And why wouldn’t it? The last of the sentences says that the NRA, “is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
Exactly what the “meaningful contributions” are remains unclear to the US and to the world, until at least Friday American time, when the group makes a public statement in front of the cameras.
What must be said too is that the National Rifle Association’s definition of “meaningful contributions” to the debate, probably differs quite dramatically to what those on the gun control side of the debate have in mind.
For any NRA contribution to the debate to actually be even remotely meaningful it must include, at the very least, public support for the Feinstein bill on assault weapons.
And for any action on guns in the USA to be truly meaningful, the response would have to go much further. More than 100 plus assault weapons named in Feinstein’s bill would need to be made illegal for any real impact to be made on the US gun problem. All semi-automatic weapons should be banned.
There are other sensible moves too, which the NRA should support and which will not in any meaningful way impact on the 2nd Amendment rights of US citizens.
There needs to be a more stringent and nationally coordinated gun licensing framework than the mish-mash of different regulations across the states at present.
And, as the President has backed, there needs to be a closure of the loophole which has seen unlicensed dealers able to trade in weapons privately and made access to firearms all too easy.
There is surely almost no chance of the them supporting the Feinstein bill and probably no chance of the NRA supporting a ban on all semi-automatic weapons beyond those named by the Feinstein bill. A better, more aligned licencing regime has more of a chance of being supported by the group of shooters. And a closure of the “gun show loophole” would likely be vehemently opposed. But maybe, just maybe, a much more stringent approach to the sale of weapons at gun shows might be endorsed.
It will almost certainly be a case of the NRA and the government, as well as the people, having different definitions of “meaningful contributions” in the fight against gun violence. And once again the NRA will be left behind in an alternative universe where reality has long been a victim of warped worldviews.
The latest gun massacre in the United States of America, this time in Aurora, Colorado has again sparked debate, within America and across the world about the sense or nonsense of the 2nd amendment right to bear arms. Twelve people were shot dead at a movie screening of The Dark Knight Rises and 58 further were injured by the gunman who burst into the cinema, let off teargas and began indiscriminately shooting at movie-goers.
The scenes of pandemonium that followed, including leaked mobile phone footage and the last tweets of some in the crowd will stick with people for a long time and must translate into at least some change in the gun laws.
Every year there are roughly 10,000 gun related murders in the United States of America out of a total number of murders close to 13,000 per annum. This is a truly horrifying statistic.
From the outset it is extremely important t0 acknowledge that no one “solution” to this incredibly difficult and fraught issue in US politics. Even a complete ban will not result in a massive reduction in gun-related deaths. People will do all they can to try and get their hands on firearms if they really want them and they will always exist in society.
There are two major problems that exist when thinking of gun crime. The first is that the right to bear arms applies to just about any weapon out there, in just about every state in the country. This access to an almost unlimited range of weapons includes some capabilities that just about any military would be proud of being able to use.
The second major problem is that the ability to acquire weapons in most states in the USA is just way too easy and there are few checks and balances and the process to legally acquire a weapon is just too lax. There is just too little examination of people wanting to obtain a firearm, something that, while still a right, must be highly regulated.
While it is true that it is the person behind the weapon that does the damage, the damage done also has much to do with the types of guns that an American citizen has access to. Since when do everyday Americans need assault rifles and machine guns, even on properties used for farming? And tear gas? Please. Who on earth needs that? Nobody as yet over the years has been able to cogently explain and justify the need for the right to bear arms to translate into access to automatic and in most cases even semi-automatic firearms.
Gun laws, though regulated by the state, separate from the national constitutional right to bear arms need to be made more stringent, perhaps nationally consistent, though this may be constitutionally and politically impossible as any gun reform has proved to be so far.
So here’s a commonsense plan which would maintain the 2nd amendment rights of Americans, still keeping their right to possess such a deadly weapon while at the same time being realistic about the consequences of the more extreme weaponry around.
First, all states must at least ban access to all automatic weapons or guns that have the ability to operate automatically.
Second, access to semi-automatic weapons should at least be limited, though there should ideally be a strong presumption against people having or needing semi-automatic weapons.
A gun buy-back scheme, similar to the one instituted by the Howard Government after the Port Arthur massacre might be a way for honest citizens to hand over the automatic weapons that they frankly don’t need. Such a scheme would result in at least some of the weapons in circulation being taken out of the public and therefore away from the access of criminals.
As far as gun licensing and regulation goes, there should be a move to a stronger, more nationally consistent license and registration framework which takes into account the individual circumstances of applicants and makes purchasing a firearm a lot harder than buying a fast food meal.
But we must be realistic about things when it comes to gun control in the USA. First, it will never happen. The NRA as a lobby group just holds too much sway. Also, the inability of politicians to budge on such a wide interpretation of the 2nd amendment has hamstrung the prospects of any significant crackdown.
At the same time too, we must also be realistic then even the greatest crackdown on weapons will not remove the devastating consequences of gun crime, various examples of this exist worldwide, but it can be restricted.
The fact that even such a modest proposal like this one would never get up is a real shame.