To Turn the Tide Against the NRA, Leadership Needed at the Top

You know you are not going to be seeing the brightest bulbs on TV defending America's loose gun laws the weekend after the mass slaughter of children. Even the NRA had gone dark, taking down its Facebook and Twitter accounts and refusing to respond to reporters.

So after twenty children and six adults were killed by an AR-15 assault rifle in Newtown, Connecticut, who did Fox scrape off the bottom of the barrel to fly the guns-don't-kill-people flag?

Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Only a Gohmert would believe that the way to prevent mass killings is by giving assault weapons to more people.

Gohmert explained to Fox News anchor Chris Wallace this weekend that what we really needed to do is arm the principals. "Chris, I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said.

Michigan too is worried that there are not enough guns handy in our nation's schools. So the lame-duck legislature passed a law last week to encourage concealed carry in schools, day care centers, hospitals, churches, stadiums, and bars.

Are we really going to let the NRA and the knuckle-draggers define the terms of the debate in this country?

The U.S. Has 20 Times the Rate of Gun Murder

Although the NRA has worked hard to suppress data collection and independent research on gun violence, there are a number of facts relevant to this debate.

A 2011 study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined.

Does America have 20 times the level of mental illness? No, but we do have the highest gun ownership rate in the world - an average of 88 per 100 people and extremely loose gun laws that in some states allow ex-felons and the mentally ill to petition to be allowed to buy and carry weapons.

After 35 people were killed by an AR-15 assault rifle in 1996, Australia implemented an assault weapons ban and a mandatory buy back program for the weapons already on the street. Explicitly, the Australian government was worried about importing "the American disease" of gun violence.

The result? "In the 18 years before the intervention, Australia had 13 mass shootings. In the dozen years since, there has not been a single one," says David Hemenway of Harvard's Injury Control Research Center.

No More Hiding Behind the Second Amendment

In sane countries, military-style assault weapons and ammunition are reserved for the military. But not in the United States. The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushed for the sunset of the 1994 assault weapons ban and have fought hard to preempt any reasonable gun legislation at the state or municipal level, as CMD has documented. Wal-Mart sells AR-15 style weapons like hotcakes and chaired ALEC's task force dealing with guns when it passed the NRA's "Stand Your Ground" bill implicated in the Trayvon Martin killing.

From Virginia, to Tucson, to Newton, the death toll is rapidly mounting. The NRA may be lying low this week, but we can be sure they are gearing up behind closed doors.

Many are ready for the fight, MSNBC host Ed Shultz says there will be "no more hiding behind the Second Amendment." Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), both of whom have A-ratings from the NRA, are changing their tune: "The status quo is not acceptable anymore," said Warner. "Everything should be on the table," says Manchin.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA) said she will introduce legislation in January to ban the sale of assault weapons, and big clip ammunition, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets. But she admits that her proposal is riddled with 900 exceptions - and it applies only to future gun purchases.

Is this really the best we can do?

Mayors Tell Obama to Get Moving

Having attended the funerals of too many victims, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his growing coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns are not waiting around for any more. They are taking the airwaves by storm, backing a comprehensive assault weapons ban and advocating for a number of needed reforms at the federal, state and local level.

They know that policymakers have to move fast, before the horror of the latest tragedy fades. For now, the tide appears to be turning against the NRA. Support for reasonable gun control is at a 10 year high. A private equity firm was shamed into selling its holdings in the company which made the assault weapon used in the Newton massacre. Dick's Sporting Goods suspended the sale of high-powered rifles. California legislators are moving on background checks and ammunition. Even Governor Rick Snyder is seeing the light, vetoing Michigan's concealed carry expansion yesterday.

But the mayors know that leadership is needed from the top. 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during Obama's second term. The president has pandered to the NRA lobby in the past. They are demanding a robust White House proposal on guns.

You can access the Mayors' "Demand a Plan" petition to the White House and Congress here and follow the discussion at #DemandAPlan.

PDF icon UCR Homicides by Weapon.pdf48.63 KB
Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.


That's why we never stop hearing that <i>fists</i> don't kill people, <i>people</i> kill people. :-)