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The (N)ot (R)esponsible (A)ssociation

Adam Newman | Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The most anticipated statement after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was that of Wayne LaPierre, the Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association (NRA), an organization that represents four million gun owners. Due to its passionate member base and deep financial resources, the NRA is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington.  
Mr. LaPierre’s address was disappointing, but not surprising from an organization that has historically evaded responsibility for gun violence. To his credit, he began by offering condolences to Newtown and the affected families. And that was about where reason in his speech ended and blinding ideology kicked in. He went on to blame everyone (politicians who pass gun controls and the media) and everything (violent video games and movies) without mentioning the role that guns played in the shooting. This is comparable to a lifetime smoker blaming their lung cancer on everything except cigarettes.
Mr. LaPierre did offer a solution to prevent another Sandy Hook, though: ensuring every school has an armed guard, an idea which may have merit, but is certainly no silver bullet. Notable mass shootings have occurred in the presence of armed personnel, such as at Columbine. Placing armed guards at every school also does not take into account the many other places shootings take place: gas stations, street corners, mosques and malls, nor does it take into account accidents or other risks that guns create when brought into a public place or home.  Placing an armed guard in every school that currently does not already have one (roughly 2/3 of schools) is estimated to cost $4 billion annually, a large sum at a time when local and state governments are struggling with fiscal issues. As expected, Mr. LaPierre offered this solution without suggesting a way to pay for it.
Mr. LaPierre also called for “reforming” the mental health system. While increasing funding for the mentally ill is critical for its own sake, anyone can see through his strategy. By focusing only on reforming mental health, he can justify (in his mind) not offering new gun controls. However, this is only an attempt to offer a solution in words, not in actions. The chances of the NRA actually using its major political standing to push for meaningful reforms holds little to no promise.  
This brings me to what Mr. LaPierre left out of his address: a call for new gun restrictions and regulations. Not asking for them should be considered political malpractice. By standing fast on refusing to endorse any new measures for gun controls and filling the airwaves with (unlikely) hypothetical situations and refusals that government can do anything to curb violence, LaPierre is alienating his organization from both the American public and its own members. LaPierre should realize that not endorsing even common sense gun controls after a tragedy such as Newtown will only hurt the standing of the NRA and its members, which will make it easier for new gun controls to pass in the future.
One can argue that Mr. LaPierre is simply reflecting the beliefs of NRA members, who tend to be extremely wary of new gun regulations. However, this notion does not align with polling data gathered by Frank Luntz, a prominent Republican pollster, that show NRA members support many common sense gun controls. Eighty-seven percent of NRA members agree those who are under investigation by the FBI for terrorism should not be allowed to buy a gun. Eighty-two percent agreed that people should be required to notify authorities if their gun is lost or stolen. Sixty-nine percent agreed that gun sellers should be required to perform background checks on those who buy guns at guns shows. While these measures are not necessarily drastic, they are common sense policies that can and will save lives.
Mr. LaPierre and the NRA had an opportunity to work with other stakeholders and the government on preventing another Sandy Hook and lowering the level of gun deaths in America, but have chosen not to. This signals the NRA will continue to oppose every gun control measure that comes before the Congress and work to defeat the members who support them. And as more mass and solo shootings will surely occur, the NRA may not be directly responsible, but they will have blood on its hands.


Adam Newman is a senior political science major. He can be reached at
    The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.