Guns

January 16, 2013; Source: U.S. News & World Report

On the very day that the Obama administration announced its plan for reducing gun violence in the streets (and schools, movie theaters, etc.) of America’s cities, the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) National Rifle Association (NRA) released a new advertisement to express its opinions. The ad, available on the NRA website, labels President Obama a hypocrite for allowing his children to be protected by armed Secret Service agents while suggesting that armed guards in schools might not be warranted. Denouncing Obama as an “elitist hypocrite,” the ad’s voice-over asks, “Are the president’s kids more important than yours?”

Wow!

The ad goes on to link President Obama’s position on gun control to the tax debate in the fiscal cliff. The NRA ad’s narrator says, “Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.” Doesn’t that sound like the NRA couldn’t decide if they were more upset about potential gun control legislation or the president’s tax rate hike on the top one percent of taxpayers?

If the NRA wants to bring the Obama children into the debate, that’s well within the boundaries of their First Amendment rights, but it’s not within the boundaries of most people’s notions of basic human decency. We would also guess that someone in the NRA might have a sense of why the Secret Service provides protection to the President of the United States and his family, or why assigning similar treatment to the rest of us and our children is not quite practical. In any case, this latest and nauseatingly offensive step in the NRA’s anti-gun control advocacy is all but guaranteed to backfire. It is hard to imagine Congress buckling under pressure to the NRA, particularly as people flock to gun shows where they can buy guns without going through much or anything in the way of background checks.



The recommendations of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden involve actions requiring legislative action by Congress as well as a number of actions that can be implemented through executive order. The big-ticket items include:

  • Renewing and strengthening the ban on the sale and production of assault weapons that expired in 2004;
  • Banning the sale and production of magazines with more than 10 rounds;
  • Closing the gun show loophole by requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales;
  • Strengthening the background check system, including changes concerning legal barriers that keep some mental health records private;
  • Strengthening law enforcement crackdowns on people who evade background checks;
  • Banning the possession or transfer of armor-piercing bullets;
  • Strengthening controls against legal purchasers who give or sell guns to criminals;
  • Launching a federal campaign about safe and responsible gun ownership;
  • Examining new technologies for gun safety;
  • “Launch[ing] a national dialogue” on mental health; and
  • Lifting a ban that prevents the Centers for Disease Control from doing research on gun violence.

It’s not quite clear what is so detestful to the NRA about these proposals. The president’s gun control agenda will still leave some 300 million guns in the hands of the 320 million people in this nation. The NRA has come a long way from its origins under Civil War general Amos Burnside, who was concerned about teaching marksmanship after having watched soldiers unable to shoot straight. Even if one thought the organization had lost its moorings in recent decades and gravitated toward an honored space among wingnuts, the new ad dragging Sasha and Malia Obama into the debate suggests that the NRA has really fallen off the deep end of the pool. —Rick Cohen