Dear National Rifle Association —
I live in Maine and grew up in Arkansas, and I know a lot of gun owners, men and women who hunt for food, hunt for sport, like to shoot things out in the woods, like to have guns in their home because it makes them feel safer, or because they are collectors. Sometimes they needed a gun to put down a sick animal, or to get rid of vermin attacking their gardens. I’m not one of those people, and I don’t really understand it, but I suspect they don’t understand my fascination with Ryan Reynolds, either.
I may not be a fan of weapons that were designed to kill (outside of the context of a Tarantino film), but I don’t begrudge friends or family members their right to own a gun (although, I really prefer that they are locked safely away when the kids are around, because those things terrify me). I get a sickly feeling, however, when I find out a friend or family member belongs to your organization, because your organization has a really bad reputation among people like myself.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s a piece today in the NYTimes that I’m sure you’ve read about how the NRA is complicit in terrorism. It’s pretty harsh, but I admit I thought the same thing earlier this week. There’s this race after a mass shooting, among people on both sides, to figure out who the shooter is an ascribe a motive. You guys are always quick to blame shootings on religious fanaticism or mental illness, because it jibes with your “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” philosophy. However, the thing that all those mass shooters all have in common is this: They all have guns! Many of them have military-style assault weapons. It may be people who kill people, but those particular guns allow people to kill a lot more people than the guns hunters use to kill deer, or the guns homeowners lock away in their safe in case of a robbery.
There is another paragraph in that NYTimes article that really stuck a nerve:
What makes the legislative inaction all the more maddening is that there is general public agreement in favor of attempts like these to reduce the bloodshed. An overwhelming majority of Americans — including gun owners and even N.R.A. members — support universal background checks, while strong majorities want to block sales to suspected terrorists and ban high-capacity magazines.
Wait a second? You mean, the majority of your own people support background checks and the ability to block sales to terrorists? What are you guys even doing, then? Aren’t you supposed to advocate for your own members? Isn’t that why they pay $40 in dues every year? So you can pay Congressmen and women to pass the legislation desired by your own members?
Because, dudes: Right now, you are making your members look really bad. The large majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens, but they’re getting lumped in with the terrorists right now. That’s not cool. You know all that bullshit you guys pull in trying to stereotype all Muslims as terrorists? It’s backfiring on you right now, and people are starting to consider any member of the NRA as a terrorist, because they are basically funding your ability to ensure actual terrorist have easy access to guns.
That is a PR nightmare for your organization. There are lots of us — and the numbers are growing — who blame you guys for all these mass shootings. You may think of yourselves as heroes for the Second Amendment, but a growing consensus is starting to think of you as the villains.
You guys don’t want to be the villains, do you?
Look: The solution is very simple. All you have to do is help a brother out. Stand up for your own members and ask Congress to 1) require background checks, and 2) allow us to ban people on the government watch list from buying guns. It’d be great if you helped us to ban assault weapons, too, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
You guys say the word, and Congress makes it happen overnight. You guys get to be the heroes! The Republicans you fund also get to be the heroes! Instead of being thought of as terrorists, you get to go back to being thought of as the organization protecting responsible, law-abiding gun owners. You’ll also make the majority of your members happier, you might keep assault weapons out of the hands of a few terrorists, and you might even save a few guns sellers the guilt of having been the one who sold a terrorist an assault weapon that killed 50 people.
Then, the next time there is a mass shooting, you can at least say, “Hey! We’re doing what we can here to protect the American people! We tried to prevent the lone wolf from buying an assault weapon, but we can’t legislate the black market.” Moreover, we won’t hold you guys as responsible the next time there’s a mass shooting, and you guys can stop putting all of this on religion and mental illness.
What have you got to lose? How much money are you going to lose if someone from the government watch list can’t buy a gun? It’s gotta be less than what you spend in lost members and to defend yourself after every one of these mass shootings, right?
What I’m saying is: Work with us here. Take the high ground. It’s good for the country. It’s good for the NRA. It’s good for the lives that might be lost without these very small protections being put in place. You do this for us, and we stop calling you a terrorist enabler, because right now, that’s exactly what you are.