Saturday, October 31, 2015

dontshootmykids: The NRA Wants ME! Chapter One

dontshootmykids: The NRA Wants ME! Chapter One: The election year approaches and I have already received dozens of urgent requests for money. House members want some. Legislators want some...

The NRA Wants ME! Chapter One

The election year approaches and I have already received dozens of urgent requests for money. House members want some. Legislators want some. Senate campaign committees want some. Special interest groups want some. And the most special special interest group of all, the National Rifle Association surely wants some.

The Second Amendment is not my favorite. It has clearly outlived the age in which it was created. Militias were important in early America. They aren't important any more, although the people who join them think they are defending democracy against...against....I don't know what.

I am a First Amendment kind of guy, which is why I am writing this. The NRA hates any media it doesn't control. I'm fine with that. Now the NRA wants some money.

And it's actually getting some from me. Not enough to build a shelter in the woods, just enough for a membership. Let me make myself clear. I'm doing this because I want you to know what this organization has to say as the Presidential Campaign plays out over the next year.

I did this a couple of years ago and used the unending stream of magazines and emails in one of my politics classes at Roosevelt University. I believe I will do that again, but I also want to include you, because you make the decisions in our democracy and you need to be informed.

So the NRA will tell me what it thinks about all kinds of things, and then I will tell you, probably more than you want to know, but that's just the way I am. Don't expect objectivity. Just the truth. Maybe some snotty commentary at some points.

But that's just me.

Here is a very key player in this story.

Wayne LaPierre:

He looks like he could be a determined insurance agent from down the street.

Perhaps there is a more revealing picture.

That's the one, the  perpetually angry Wayne LaPierre, at least in Congress and on paper and at rallies. He is the boss at the National Rifle Association, although he would say that's not so, and perhaps the loudest and longest running non-official face in the gun controversy. His job is Executive Vice President of the NRA, a place-holding title which usually means the president of the group wants to get rid of you, but doesn't know how. 
This is probably not the case with Wayne.

 He is one of the most successful fund raisers and rhetoric blasters in modern politics, certainly the best on the gun side. I pay tribute to him for that. It takes a strong sense of presence to advocate what he advocates, armed guards in schools for example. But that is the role he plays in the gun controversy.

Which gun controversy?

The same old gun controversy as always. 

The government, the NRA says in no uncertain terms, is coming for our guns, President Obama is stripping the nation of its values and Hillary Clinton is even worse. On and on it goes. Each time someone cuts into a college classroom with pistols and assault rifles, or kills grade school children in a rage or walks into a factory and blows a couple of people away, Wayne LaPierre is not far behind in the world of media. He plays his role, which is to advocate the Second Amendment in the face of a mountain of evidence that shows these days it's not at all about arming the kind of militia the founding fathers had in mind.

He is just great at his job! If you don't think that's the case, try to get legislation passed that tightens the government's control over gun sales. In state legislatures, in congress, in a lot of city councils, Wayne LaPierre will show up, either in person or in the form of money or convincing, well funded lobbyists.

You might think, "Well, that's not a good thing," but a big slice of the population would disagree.

If you are for access to guns, and not just little pissant pop shooters, big guns, he's just the greatest!

So, who am I?

 A former newspaper reporter, a musician, a novice instrument builder, a professor, a writer, one of those irritating characters the NRA points to when it thinks of "mainstream media," but that doesn't apply any more. I'm not media of any kind. I have no credentials, no press passes. I can't get on campaign buses any more and no one pays me for my work.

I don't know if I am a liberal. Over the years, people have pointed fingers at me and pasted that label on whatever I have written. I don't think it fits. I favor adoption over abortion, for example, and whatever birth control you want to embrace over unwanted pregnancy. I advocate strong defense as a deterrent against evil doers. I honor our soldiers, sailors, marine and coast guard people.

 I support my local police. 

I am proud of our president.

I believe there are ghosts on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg and at Ground Zero in New York and out in a field in Western Pennsylvania and I think they whisper cautionary tales to us about the fragility of the Republic, about democracy, about our freedoms.

I covered all kinds of stories all over the place for 42 years, and this gun story is one subject that just will not leave me alone, no matter how hard I try to ignore it. Shoot up a class room and I will be up late at night asking myself, "How could this happen?"

I have seen evil people. I have covered evil people. I have seen good people go bad, and bad people do good things. I understand how complicated life can be.

I had a couple of guns of my own, World War I-era rifles that once belonged to the U.S. Government. That's right, I seized the government's firearms! (Actually, I bought them from a licensed gun dealer. I used them long enough to know I could hit a target with some precision at 200 yards, then packed them up and gave them to my sons. I loved the mechanics of those weapons, the precision with which they were made, their lasting value over the past century. But I have no use for them.)

1903 Springfield rifles. This was my favorite, a very solid gun as accurate as could be.

I understand why people like firearms, and I understand that the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding citizens who don't deserve to be penalized because of the behavior of a few tortured people. 

Still, there is this undeniable problem and it's not going to be fixed by adding more guns.

Let me be clear, again. I don't know that there is a solution. I'm not going to advocate more gun control for so many reasons I can't list them all here. Let's just think of it this way: The last good estimate I saw on gun ownership in America included the number 350 million. That's just an estimate of the number of firearms around us. Ownership is out of the government's hands whether we like it or not. It's just too big a thing to bring under much control.

That will be the backdrop for the articles I write over the next year. A political battle will play out at loud volume in the most heavily armed nation on earth. The NRA will be a big voice in that conflict. It's a voice you should be listening to because it explains so much about how politics actually works.

I will tell you.

(NEXT: Wayne LaPierre's pitch)