I tried to be what they call “pro-life.” It was 1970. I was 21-years-old and running for the state legislature for the first time. It was the year a Texas woman filed a lawsuit known as Roe v. Wade.
In 1970 hundreds of Americans and thousands of others were dying weekly in Viet Nam. The death penalty was being challenged in legal, academic, and political circles. It seemed abortion was simply one more way the government sanctioned the taking of human life. So I decided that to be consistent, I would be a pro-life candidate.
I had then and yet have many friends who consider themselves “pro-life” who offer honest, thoughtful, reasoned ideas on how to limit or end the practice of abortion. Others insist on radicalizing the debate by saying those who disagree are murders. They block doors to doctors’ offices, calling women making tough personal choices “baby-killers.”
My time as a “pro-life” advocate didn’t last long. Soon I realized I just didn’t like the company one had to keep on that side of the aisle. The same doubts should be occurring today among members of the National Rifle Association. The company one has keep in order to oppose gun safety proposals in the post Sandy Hook era is unsavory at best and, at times unpatriotic.
As with abortion, there are honest, reasonable, responsible arguments on both sides. Even gun owners can understand that while we want the freedom to have guns, there are common sense reforms that will make us safer.
But, to keep membership in the NRA you must align yourself with a ruthless public relations lobbying campaign that attempts to equate the President of the United States with Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin. The lunacy of the NRA’s response to a call for national dialogue about gun safety means members’ names and dues are used to peddle the perverse lies the organization uses to stop the discussion before it begins.
The NRA sends out bumper stickers supporting its “A” list of congressmen. They may read “Sportsmen for Lummis” or whomever, but sportsmen are not the organization’s top priority. According to The Nation, “there is much evidence to suggest that corporations that profit from unregulated gun use are propping up the NRA’s activities, much like how the tobacco lobby secretly fronted ‘smokers rights’ and libertarian anti-tax groups, or how polluters currently finance much of the climate change skepticism movement.”
The NRA benefits from its special relationship with arms manufacturers like Bushmaster Firearms Inc., the company that manufactures the assault rifle allegedly used to massacre children in Newtown. The NRA uses your dues to block law enforcement efforts to revoke the gun-selling licenses of crooked dealers, to assure continuation loopholes allowing “private” gun sales with no background check, to allow concealed guns to be carried into bars, restaurants, churches, schools and malls, to block research into the causes of gun violence, and to oppose legislation designed to prohibit gun sales to people on the federal government's terrorist watch list. They also use your money to demolish any politician who questions their radical agenda.
There are no limits in truth or decency to the NRA campaign to prevent a gun safety debate despite the fact that the U.S. suffers more gun violence than any other industrialized nation. For example, when the father of one of the children killed at Sandy Hook testified in the Connecticut legislature for gun safety, he was booed and taunted by NRA hecklers. No class.
Another example is the recent attack on the President’s children. The NRA called Barack Obama a “hypocrite” because he allows armed secret service officers to protect his children. That silliness places the NRA on the far side of the lunatic fringe. They claim guns are necessary to protect ourselves from a “tyrannical government” to persuade people the government is the enemy and the President is coming to take your guns.
No reasonable voices are calling for confiscation of a single gun. Legitimate arguments exist for and against the President’s ideas. But the National Rifle Association seeks to prevent any debate by espousing an unpatriotic, borderline treasonous campaign.
My father taught me that a person is known by the company you keep. If you are an NRA member, that’s the company you keep.