NRA charges reveal bitter feelings
By Dr. Michael S. Brown
Pundits and politicians alike were taken aback on March 12 by an outburst of harsh language from Wayne LaPierre, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association. LaPierre accused President Clinton of needing a certain level of killing to further his political goals.
This columnist, and others, who monitor the gun control debate, know that the verbal attack reflects only the surface of a deep reservoir of bitterness that Bill Clinton has created in American gun owners.
Eight years of constant pressure by the Clinton-Gore administration, their allies in Congress, and anti-gun organizations have driven tempers to the breaking point. Gun owners have been demonized to such an extent that they have become the newest persecuted minority. Like other groups and individuals who happened to be in the path of the voracious Clinton spin machine, gun owners have been denigrated and libeled by experts. What was once an important and patriotic group of citizens now feels completely marginalized and in danger of extinction.
They are accused of being unfeeling louts who don't care about the deaths of children. Popular entertainment portrays them as careless slobs. They are used as scapegoats for deep societal problems over which they have no control.
Schools reject gun safety classes simply because they were created by the NRA. Marksmanship programs that were once a source of national strength and pride are now considered an evil influence on young people.
Gun owners watch in amazement as politicians continually introduce bills that would limit civil rights without having an impact on crime. They typically admit that their particular bill will not reduce crime, but is "just another step in the right direction". The Department of Justice touts the latest figures showing how many felons were turned down for gun sales, but declines to prosecute for making the illegal attempt. Anti-gun organizations disseminate false statistics without being questioned by the media.
Everyone seems to know that gun control does not work, yet there is great pressure for more of it. Lessons from other countries and from some areas in the U.S. indicate that the so called "slippery slope" argument is very real. Gun control eventually leads to prohibition. This suggests to some that there is a sinister conspiracy to disarm the public and leave all power in government hands. Perhaps this is so, but it is more likely that the anti-gun pressure is simply generated by a need to create a useful political issue.
Since gun violence is at a 30 year low and accidents have steadily declined for a century, there is no other reason why gun control should be such a high priority at this time. It is simply a useful tool to distract voters from the real social problems that are not being adequately addressed.
Sam Cohen, a gun rights activist in Massachusetts, summed up the feelings of gun owners who are caught in the political crossfire: "There are 80 million responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America and we are sick and tired of being treated like criminals."
Although pro-gun views are not represented in the national media, many active gun rights groups exist below the media's radar on the internet. Some of their discussions are fascinating and some are downright scholarly for a group portrayed as ignorant rednecks. Each time the media hypes a new shooting incident, active gun owners watch to see how the usual suspects perform. "Blood dancing" is the new term that has been coined to describe how the anti-gun politicians dance in the blood of innocent victims to promote their agenda.
Outrage in the gun rights community is at an all-time high. How this will express itself is difficult to predict, but it is likely to have some impact on the election in November. Around the country, gun owners are announcing to their friends that they are fed up and not going to take any more of this abuse. They are joining the NRA in record numbers and contributing money in unprecedented amounts. Many are joining grass roots campaigns to unseat as many anti-gun politicians as possible.
NRA headquarters is being flooded with messages of support from members who urge the organization to stand up to Bill Clinton and expose the dishonesty of the other side. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is researching ways to paint George W. Bush as one of those evil pro-gun politicians who are thwarting the will of the people.
The stage is set for the first great political battle of the new century. If recent trends continue, truth and honesty will be thefirst casualties.
Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist who moderates a large email list for discussion of gun issues in Washington State. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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