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NRA Responds

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The stench of self-induced fear fills the air. 

I have to hand it to the NRA. I did get a letter back yesterday.

I had written President David Keene on January 16 to protest the NRA ad accusing President Obama of being an “elitist hypocrite,” because his daughters have armed protection at their private school. I referred to this as a “new low in the public debate” on gun control. Boy, have things gotten mean out there. 

Keene’s return letter focuses on gun control rather than the ad. With regard to the insult, however, the NRA’s position is that there should be armed security for all children, not just President Obama’s. He also supports increased prosecution of criminals using firearms, claiming that they have fallen “some 35%” during President Obama’s administration. There is no source for this questionable figure, which is designed to fuel the anti-government paranoia afoot. 

In spite of these proposals, the NRA actually has no incentive to do anything to forestall armed homicide, because it fuels further gun sales for their members who manufacture weapons. AndKeenemust be secretly pleased by something a little different in a few of the most recent killings. There is a new pattern afoot. 

So let me review three incidents so far this year. An Albuquerque teenager irritated with his mother murders five family members. A man angry about an unpaid bill kills a mediating attorney and his client inArizona. An anti-government (see above) veteran kills a school bus driver and kidnaps a five-year old in Alabama to create a hostage situation with police. 

One looks at the reports, and it begins to register: This could happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone, for any reason. These new killers are not stock criminals but a small businessman like one you hire, a teenager whom you could know from church, a man who reminds you of a reclusive, elderly newcomer to your neighborhood. They are more and more like you and me. How scary is that? 

It’s scary because so many people can now “express” with a gun. Everybody has problems. Everybody has a bad day every now and then. We all get angry, frustrated, exhausted, and worried. We’re supposed to calm down, straighten up, mobilize our resources, and work it out. We don’t get to go shoot someone every time we get ticked. But now so many of us have guns handy that . . .

 The NRA’s response would be that those of us who don’t have guns now have even more reason to get them. The NRA would like to see gun laws altered so all of us can “pack” everywhere we go—to the office, the grocery store, church, school, movies, sports events, on and on. Just think of the gun sales. Visions of dollars dance like sugar plums in the head. 

And since this whole issue is a lot about money, let’s enlarge the picture. Let’s consider howAmerica’s growing reputation for violence will damage tourism, just as it has done inMexico. Favorite destinations likeWashington,D.C.,New Orleans, andMiamihave high murder rates. (See Andres Oppenheimer, “Mexico: Almost as Violent as D.C.”) Gun manufacturers may do well here, but tourism revenue could plummet. How much money are we talking about? Shouldn’t Congress care? 

But even more important than the economics of violence is the evidence that our culture is not well. The current quality of mind has been shaped by many sources. They include vicious politics, conspiracy theories, the time and space the Internet gives to irresponsible propaganda, the scary movies and TV shows we’re seeing, and the way the news media exploit horrifying events to increase ratings. The time and attention we devote to all this material are our worst enemies. 

And maybe our troubles have a lot to do with the way we have glorified aspects of our violent, pioneering history. This nation was indeed founded by people who bravely faced real dangers. However, we’ve been busily manufacturing our own, literally at places like Smith and Wesson. This should be one of the safest countries on earth, and we’re the reason why it isn’t. The stench of self-induced fear fills the air. The fragrant scent of courage, determination, and optimism would be a great improvement

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