By Paul Helmke
Washington, D.C. – At the NRA’s national convention in Pittsburgh this week, look for the speakers, presidential hopefuls and ardent supporters to rally around the fairy tale that America is a gun-loving country. But don’t believe it.
Gun ownership in the nation is at the lowest level ever recorded by the General Social Survey,according to an analysis issued Tuesday by the Violence Policy Center. The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago has been surveying the American public on gun ownership since the early 1970s. Far from representing the mainstream sentiment of Americans, the NRA’s gun-in-every-home-and-hollow mantra is resonating with fewer and fewer of us.
In most households, people choose not to own guns. In 2010, less than a third of households reported having a gun in the home. This is better than a 20-point drop from 1977, when 54 percent of households reported having guns. The drop in gun ownership came despite the millions of dollars the firearms industry gave the NRA to push looser gun restrictions across the nation. Rather than accept the limitations endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its definition of the Second Amendment right, the NRA is pushing for the unfettered prerogative to carry a gun into just about any place a gun owner chooses, including schools, churches, workplaces, and bars.
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This doesn’t empower average Americans, most of whom rightly recognize that more guns in more places inevitably lead to more gun violence. Rather, the NRA’s gun-pushing stance promotes the interests of its firearm industry partners, who profit outrageously at the expense of Americans who are under the constant threat of gun violence.
Of course, there will be no overt reference at the NRA conference tying weak gun laws to fattened profits for firearm manufacturers and dealers. Historically, the NRA has insisted that it is not directly allied with any firearms or ammunition manufacturers or dealers. Yet, the organization’s balance sheets tell another story.
An April 13 Violence Policy Center report found that since 2005, contributions to the NRA from gun industry “corporate partners” totaled between $14.7 million and $38.9 million. The donors include some of the biggest names in the gun business: Beretta USA Corp., Browning, Glock, Inc., Remington Arms Co., and Smith and Wesson Corp.
According to the report, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre promises in a promotional brochure that the “partners” program “is geared toward your company’s corporate interests.”
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That is what the show in Pittsburgh is all about. The NRA drapes its pro-gun message in sloganeering about freedom and the American flag, but that is primarily a smokescreen.
The NRA doesn’t support any common-sense regulations allowed by the Second Amendment. It heavily promotes the idea that guns should be easily available, and it profits from the sales. Fortunately, most Americans don’t believe in this “guns everywhere” vision of America.
Significantly fewer households and individuals now have guns. This information should make members of Congress less likely to fear the gun pushers and more likely to approve sensible gun laws, such as U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s bill, H.R. 308, to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines. The Tucson shooter used a gun holding such a large-capacity “assault clip” in January to kill six and wound 13, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Though the gunman’s bullet nearly took her life, the congresswoman is recovering remarkably well from the brain injury, so much so that she will be able to watch her husband, Space Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly, lift off Friday aboard the Endeavour craft.
Although one of its congressional members was so recently caught in gunfire, too many federal lawmakers continue to suppress their best instincts for common-sense gun regulations.
Public safety ought not be up for sale – not ever. Americans deserve to live in a country where gun violence is rare. As show-time in Pittsburgh continues for the next few days, Congress should understand the need – and its responsibility — to ban assault clips, require universal Brady background checks, strengthen law enforcement’s ability to crack down on rogue gun dealers, and do what it can to help reduce gun violence in this country.