EDITORIAL: Succumbing to NRA and gun industry hysteria is killing us

Second Amendment


A semi-automatic rifle is displayed above shotguns at Rainier Arms Friday, April 14, 2023, in Auburn, Wash. Washington state lawmakers agreed to ban the guns. Colorado lawmakers lack the votes to ban sales of the rifles in Colorado. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Despite what lobbyists for gun rights and the gun industry profess, the United States can reduce gun violence of all kinds, and we can do it through gun-control legislation.

There would be no greater tribute to those killed and maimed in Uvalde, Aurora, Orlando, Boulder, Sandy Hook Elementary School and most recently Nashville, Dadeville and Louisville — and every day across the country — than to finally act as a nation to stem this national tragedy.

Like a growing number of American communities, the hindsight of Aurora victims is crystal clear; America must act. State Sen. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, whose son, Alex, was killed during the Aurora theater shooting, is a state leader in pushing past resistance from the gun industry and misguided gun activists.

His pragmatic advice is clear: the money is more critical to the issue than political histrionics. 

The once-honorable National Rifle Association has evolved to become a ruthless political arm of the nation’s $21-billion-a-year gun industry. Its clear focus is to ensure the easy and prolific procurement, use and sale of firearms and ammunition.

Over the past few decades, the NRA and similar organizations — including Rocky Mountain Gun Owners —  have deviously woven a gun-rights mythology with fierce patriotism. How could it in any way be patriotic to turn firearms on fellow citizens upwards of 100,000 times a year?

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These groups prey on unwitting subjects of a vastly expensive and relentless marketing scheme: guns are freedom.

That’s coupled with an ocean of money spent annually on ensuring compliance from obedient and fearful members of Congress and state legislatures.

The NRA mythology is pegged on equating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech, with the Second Amendment, preserving the ability of citizen militias to help defend the nation against foreign invaders. They have worked tirelessly to persuade Congress and voters that there should be no regulation of firearms in the same way there is virtually no regulation of speech.

The result is a chaotic free-for-all where about 100,000 Americans are killed or maimed each year by firearms.

What used to be the tragic reputation of urban megalopolises like Chicago and Los Angeles, the talk of shootings in the Aurora-Denver metro area are now daily events.

We are killed and wounded by guns at a rate that is 25 times higher than any other developed democratic nation. It is our nation’s biggest embarrassment and preventable tragedy.

Just days after the Louisville massacre, as the TV camera’s poked in the face of Americans just like they’ve done after every other American mass shooting, people said they had no hope anything would change. They said that these massacres are simply the price we pay for our Second Amendment freedom, or our inability to fight back against the mythology.

It is hard to fathom anything more un-American than that cynical despair, and a life further from what most would consider “freedom.”

This is the nation that has conquered space, slavery, Nazi Germany, and the institutionalized discrimination against minorities, women and gays. We can find remedies to this deadly national scourge.

First, we must compel our elected officials to review and decide gun legislation on its merits and not under the crushing political weight of the NRA and other gun-industry lobbies. Their decisions must be in our interest, not that of the NRA and the gun industry.

Colorado is a leader in pressing past the resistance, offering evolving red-flag laws, mandatory registration and other modest steps toward keeping guns from nefarious and mentally unstable people. Guns have become so prolific, they’re easily stolen from car gloveboxes and night-stands by children and others every single day.

Holding gun owners accountable by requiring the same responsibilities we require of car owners and motorists must be a priority.

The nation must not just allow, but compel the Centers for Disease Control and other U.S. agencies to freely conduct firearms research, analysis and policy development. As directed by the NRA, Congress has for decades forbid this.

All firearms must be registered and licensed, and all purchases must include a substantial background check. The licensing must at least parallel what we demand to license car drivers. Scholars have long agreed this is possible under the Second Amendment, even after controversial recent Supreme Court rulings. It’s just been banned by the NRA for years. Annual licensing could ensure training, safe storage and even an annual medical exam to help detect dangerous mental illness. Such licensing would greatly help to reduce the number of weapons legally and illegally carried and used by gangs and other criminals.

And Congress must vastly reduce the quantity of firearms and ammunition now easily purchased and legal that is nothing less than weaponry designed and needed only for military application. Colorado has failed again in that goal, and with the ease of moving these military weapons across state lines, only national legislation can work.

In addition, large quantities of firearms and ammunition should warrant review the same way we require review of amassing any lethal substance or device.

As a society, we must disregard the propaganda and utter nonsense that assault-style weapons serve a needed purpose among ranchers and farmers, or are an important part of recreation.

Colorado Congressman Ken Buck infamously insisted that farmers need assault rifles to control racoons. It’s that ludicrous bravado that Americans disgusted by rampant gun violence must push back against.

For those who faithfully believe they need military armory to protect themselves against an attack by our own government or by foreign agents, we suggest psychiatric care, not military weaponry. The U.S. military and our state militias are not lacking any weaponry to ensure our defense.

All other arguments are nothing but NRA deflections, fearmongering and fatuous complaints.

For those who insist these and other meaningful measures won’t reduce daily gun violence and mass murders, the dozens of free, Democratic nations across the globe that protect the rights of hunters and sportsmen and reasonably regulate firearms are proof that it can be done.

Now would be the time to start.

 



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