Letter: May Rationality Overcome Extremism

To the Editor:

This nation has long supported the individual’s right to possess firearms, but the American public now recognizes that the National Rifle Association has completed the process of removing itself as a voice of rational advocacy of the Second Amendment. In recent years, the NRA’s actions have resulted in some remarkable legislation that confounds common sense: congressional banning of funding for federally sponsored studies on gun violence (what evidence is the NRA afraid of?); a remarkable Florida law outlawing doctors from asking parents or potentially depressed patients if there are guns in the house (the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act prohibited “inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession ... by licensed health care practitioners”); and the last-minute insertion of similar provisions into Obamacare (asking about safe storage of weapons is akin to asking about seatbelt use).

This is all apart from a calculated cultivation of paranoia about the federal government, which often verges on sedition (and appears to be cynically intended to raise gun manufacturers’ sales). The distraction about mental health aims to divide us from facts (although we would be delighted if the NRA provided funding for community mental health). Our violent-crime death rate is 40-fold that of nations that have reasonable gun regulations, although our violent crime rates and the number of folks with mental illness is the same as other countries’. There are few innocent bystanders killed by drive-by flying baseball bats. But the issue is really about unlimited access to large-capacity magazines and semi-automatic weapons, about background-check loopholes for private sales and gun shows, and about the absence of will and funding to enforce existing law.

Americans will continue to own guns, which is our tradition. But we cannot cowardly observe congressional elections being vetted and bought by the gun manufacturers’ lobby as kids are killed in theaters and schools by weapons with 100-bullet magazines. This extremist lobby depends on the media’s limited five-week attention span after each massacre of innocents. Let’s hope that rational citizens, whether or not they enjoy shooting sports, will work together this time to insist that our representatives create sensible gun legislation.

Ken Dolkart