Sunday, May 13, 2018
The Second Amendment People
It's like "road rage" has spilled over into every segment of our society, thanks largely to social media. We insulate ourselves as we would in a car, our "safe space" if you will, and get very agitated when someone violates that space. That seems to be the case with the NRA, whose new president vented his frustration and anger with the Parkland students, branding them "civil terrorists" and threatening a "counterpunch," kind of like Trump's thinly veiled threat on the Campaign Trail 2016.
The NRA does itself no favors by making Oliver North its new president. This guy appeals to a very limited following, and in no way is going to expand the reach of the embattled organization, so one wonders just how much weight the NRA will carry in the polling booths this Fall. It's kind of like having Rudy Giuliani as your lawyer.
As it is, the NRA represents less than ten per cent of gun owners in America, which itself is only about 30 per cent of the population. So if we do the math, that's roughly 10 million persons, although the NRA claims to have a reach of 14 million persons. That may seem like a lot, but when you take a population of 325 million, that's not a very big reach.
This is what the Parkland kids have figured out and are hitting the NRA where it hurts most -- corporate sponsorship. They have been shaming retailers into dropping NRA discounts and detaching themselves from the NRA all together. Those discounts are important, as this is one of the ways the rifle association solicits members. If you no longer get a nice rebate on YETI coolers, what's the point in joining the NRA? Lack of corporate sponsorship also means the NRA will probably have to raise its membership fee next year, resulting in more members saying nah.
It's the equivalent of someone trying to squeeze in from the inside lane of the highway, and so the driver hurls insults at this flagrant abuser from the safety of his car. Hopefully, it only goes that far and David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and the other Parkland activists don't become anything more than rhetorical targets.
The NRA has been making a bad name for itself for quite sometime, yet it had been able to maintain a tight squeeze on conservative politics by brandishing "second amendment rights." With more and more mass shootings, the NRA has struggled to convince people it is upholding these rights for the good of the nation and not just peddling firearms. There does reach a limit to how many guns a person can own, after which it becomes ludicrous.
In regard to the safety of guns, one of the NRA's big talking points, let's do a little more math. You have to search all over the place now since the Center for Disease Control is limited in what it can post on gun violence. Over the last five years, there have been approximately 35,000 firearm deaths per year in America. Of those, the majority are suicides, according to the US Department of Justice. Firearm related homicides in 2016 totaled 11,000, according to the FBI. Of those homicides, very few occurred in one's home, and many of these cases were domestic violence. Home invasion amounts to a very small percentage of firearm related deaths. According to the Gun Violence Archive, only 741 reported incidents so far this year. Hard to say whether defensive use overlaps with home invasion, but even if we take these as two separate figures, that's 25 per cent of all gun violence deaths so far this year. End result, you are more likely to shoot yourself or a loved one than a home intruder or someone assaulting you in the street.
Firearms provide an all too easy means of venting rage. According to the Giffords Law Center, domestic violence assaults are 12 times more likely to end in deaths if a firearm is involved. This is what happens when you have all those handguns lying around the house, by far the most popular assault weapon, accounting for more than two-thirds of firearm related deaths, according to the FBI.
The weapon of choice in mass shootings is the semi-automatic assault rifle, as you get the most bang for your buck, especially if you include a bump stock that allows you to speed up your rounds. Not surprisingly, the Parkland students have targeted these weapons, as an AR-15 Bushmaster was used at their high school. Until 2015, you could buy an AR-15 at Walmart. Nikolas Cruz bought his assault rifle at Dick's Sporting Goods, which has subsequently banned the sale of such weapons in the wake of this incident.
One could argue that the handgun is a far more dangerous weapon than the assault rifle, but the reality is most persons support gun ownership, and are less likely to go after handguns. This makes one wonder why the NRA is so busy supporting assault rifles, when it would be in its best interest to cut loose this tainted weapon.
Ever since the ban on assault rifles expired in 2004, sales have increased exponentially, and manufacturers have the NRA to thank for this. After all, they lobbied hard to get the Republican-held Congress not to renew the ban. It doesn't matter that school shootings have also increased exponentially since then, the NRA stands behind the assault rifle because it is good for business.
The NRA makes so many crazy arguments to defend the weapon, but mostly they see gun ownership as an inalienable right and persons should be free to purchase whatever gun they choose. The more one challenges them on this position, the more enraged its members become. Wayne LaPiere appeared apoplectic at times in defense of assault rifles. Former Colonel North offers a bit more of a calm demeanor but what comes out of his mouth is pretty much the same, and it is the printed text we most often see.
Essentially, the NRA is digging its own grave defending the indefensible. The organization was founded on the premise of gun safety, and here they are hawking a paramilitary weapon that has been used in some of the most atrocious mass shootings of modern times. The NRA estimates that there are 8.5 to 15 million assault rifles in circulation and sees no reason to limit their production. What's worse, they fight against background checks, gun registration, and other means of identifying the owners, because this too they see as an infringement on individual rights.
This is what makes the NRA an easy target for the Parkland students, and why so many persons have come to the defense of these students. To once again use the road analogy, the NRA is like a huge SUV putting along the highway forcing everyone to slow down behind it, only now everyone is yelling at it to pull over.