“NRA’s Vision: A Nation Packing Heat,” Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, January 5, 2013, Moyers & Company

NRA’s Vision: A Nation Packing Heat
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winshi
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We wrote and spoke about guns just a few days before Christmas, following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. So did Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association. His now infamous, “no questions” press conference was the most stunning, cockeyed, one-man show since Clint Eastwood addressed that empty chair at the Republican National Convention. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he pronounced.

LaPierre might well have plagiarized his vision of a wholly armed nation from another “man of the people” of forty years ago, the protagonist in the famous sit-com “All in the Family.” On a 1972 episode, when a local TV station comes out in favor of gun control, Archie Bunker hits the airwaves with an editorial rebuttal:

Archie Bunker: Good evening, everybody. This here is Archie Bunker of 704 Hauser Street, veteran of the big war, speaking on behalf of guns for everybody. Now, question: what was the first thing that the Communists done when they took over Russia? Answer: gun control. And there’s a lot of people in this country want to do the same thing to us here in a kind of conspiracy, see. You take your big international bankers, they want to – whaddya call – masticate the people of this here nation like puppets on the wing, and then when they get their guns, turn us over to the Commies…

Now I want to talk about another thing that’s on everybody’s minds today, and that’s your stick-ups and your skyjackings, and which, if that were up to me, I could end the skyjackings tomorrow…All you gotta do is arm all your passengers. He ain’t got no more moral superiority there, and he ain’t gonna dare to pull out no rod. And then your airlines, they wouldn’t have to search the passengers on the ground no more, they just pass out the pistols at the beginning of the trip, and they just pick them up at the end! Case closed.

Case closed. Except that Archie Bunker’s a fictional character, created by Norman Lear, who knew better. Not Wayne LaPierre — he’s real and he means business. Big business.

Every time we have another of these mass slayings and speak of gun control, weapon sales go up. And guess what? As journalist Lee Fang reports in The Nation magazine, “For every gun or package of ammunition sold at participating stores, a dollar is donated to the NRA.” Customers can make a contribution at the point of purchase or the gun companies make an automatic donation every time the cash register rings. Last year, just one of those merchants of death, Midway USA, used one of these NRA programs to give the gun lobby a million dollars.

So naturally, in a country where even life and death are measured by the profit margin, the cure for gun violence is, yes, more guns! Bigger profits. Never mind that just before La Pierre spoke, three were shot and killed outside Altoona, Pennsylvania. Or that early on Christmas Eve morning, in Webster, New York, two volunteer firemen were called to the scene of a fire, then executed by an ex-con who allegedly set the blaze and murdered them with the same kind of assault rifle used against those school kids and their teachers in Newtown. Or that on New Year’s Eve, in Sacramento, California, reportedly in a fight over a spilled drink, a 22-year-old opened fire in a bar, killing two and wounding two others. In fact, according to Slate.com and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths, at this writing, in just those few weeks since the Newtown slaughter of the innocent, more than 400 have died from guns in America. That should boost the last quarter profit margins. Not surprising, the merchants of death are experiencing a Happy New Year.

We have to keep talking about this, because Wayne LaPierre and the NRA will keep talking and they are insidious and powerful predators. Have you seen the reports in both the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and The Washington Post of how, 16 years ago, the NRA managed to get Congress to pull funding on gun violence studies at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Since then, JAMA reports, “… at least 427,000 people have died of gunshot wounds in the United States, including more than 165,000 who were victims of homicide. To put these numbers in context, during the same time period, 4586 Americans lost their lives in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Last year, Congress stopped the National Institutes of Health from spending any money that might be construed as advocating or promoting gun control. There’s even a section that was snuck into President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that prevents doctors from collecting information on their patients’ gun use. Denise Dowd, an emergency-care physician in Kansas City and adviser on firearms issues to the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the Post, “This illustrates the fact that the NRA has insinuated themselves into the small crevices of anything they can to do anything in their power to prohibit sensible gun-safety measures.”

As Wayne LaPierre’s brazen call for an armed populace makes clear, the odds don’t favor common sense. Several members of the new Congress are reintroducing bills that would change the gun laws and USA Today reports that the White House is “likely” to issue its recommendations January 15, but there are always those legislators willing to do the gun lobby’s bidding as they profess their love of the Second Amendment and wait like hungry house pets for the next NRA campaign donation.

Every American packing heat is a frightening vision of our future. It doesn’t have to be, if only we stop and think. That’s what a fellow named Frank James did. He stopped, thought — and changed directions. A pawn shop owner in Seminole, Florida, whose youngest child is six, Frank James told a local ABC station he has decided to stop selling guns.

“It’ll probably cause my business to go out of business because it was a big part of it but I just couldn’t live with myself,” he said.” I thought, wow, this is crazy. As a gun dealer myself, I’m like, yes, we need more gun control. Guns are getting into the wrong hands of the wrong people.”

He also said, “I’m not going to be a part of it anymore. Conscience wins over making money.”

Thank you, Mr. James.

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Moyers & Company, airing on public television. Check local airtimes or comment at www.BillMoyers.com.

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Author: Guest Voice

  • http://www.americaincontext.com Barky

    The NRA is not about making the country safe. As the marketing arm of the gun industry, it’s all about selling more guns. We should not even consider their input in the “reducing firearms violence” conversation, because they are not even interested in doing so.

  • sheknows

    Like the business owner who refuses to sell guns, where are our elected officials who refuse to take bribes? Where are they when passing legislation that protects the NRA? Why are the voting records of these officials not made more public? Why do the anti-gun legislation people have to sit back and allow this to continue? When will it ever end?

  • slamfu

    The damage we do to ourselves with guns outpaces the casualty rate of the last 5 conflicts/wars we were engaged in. Korea, Vietnam, Iraqs 1&2, Afghanistan. I do not lightly pull at the threads of our rights and those protections granted us by Amendments. However, the 2nd amendment in particular is poorly worded and massively out of date.

    Seeing as how we didn’t have any army, police, FBI, etc… back then, it made more sense that people be able to arm themselves for when they were called up to fill those roles. Also, we were a nation with conflicted borders to the west and south. Second, as written the 2nd amendment is contradictory. In the same sentence it says that the right to bear arms shall be “well regulated” and “not infringed”. What the hell? We are currently waging war upon ourselves, and this discussion needs to be opened up to reason, the world we live in, the known consequences, and our ideals of freedom, all at once.

  • sheknows

    I am one of those crazies who signed a petition to repeal the 2nd. But just as soon as we need a civilian MILITIA to secure our free state, I will be on board again.
    Apparently, the text has undergone several different “translations” through the years….in other words, reinterpreted to suit the purposes of those who wish to own guns. In fact all you hear today is the extracted part that says ” the right to keep and bear arms”. You never hear the NRA screaming for the right to form ” a well regulated militia” now do you?

  • cjjack

    In fact all you hear today is the extracted part that says ” the right to keep and bear arms”. You never hear the NRA screaming for the right to form ” a well regulated militia” now do you?

    Of course, a “well regulated militia” would be under the command of the government, and we can’t have the government telling gun owners when and where to shoot, now can we?[/sarcasm]

    You know what else you don’t hear the NRA screaming about? The right to bear arms. I’m not talking about a deer rifle or a semi-auto dressed up to resemble an M-16. No, I’m talking about an actual M-16. The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. The AT4 rocket launcher. Fragmentation grenades. Mortars. Claymore anti personnel mines.

    These are all “arms,” and if the 2nd Amendment was really so “shall not be” infringed-able, then the NRA and other folks who believe the 2nd is absolute should be vigorously defending their use by civilians.

    They should have been screaming about such things ever since 1968, when the National Firearms Act put heavy restrictions on civilian ownership of machine guns and military grade weapons. Why hasn’t Wayne LaPierre been on the Sunday talk shows demanding that the NFA be repealed, and the general public be armed with large caliber, fully automatic weapons and explosive ordnance?

    They’re all “arms,” aren’t they? Could it be that even the NRA understands that handing such massive firepower over to Joe Six Pack is an astonishingly bad idea? Or is it that they support such an idea, but realize it is something nobody in their right mind would back them up on?

    The NRA sells itself as the premiere defender of the 2nd Amendment, and they obviously believe that part of the purpose of that Amendment was to provide for an armed citizenry in order to combat government tyranny if need be. So if they are such staunch advocates of the right to bear arms, they should be fighting for the right of citizens to truly mount an effective defense, and that takes arms that are currently either banned outright or heavily restricted.

    I mean, the only thing that should be standing in the way of a bad guy with a helicopter gunship is a good guy with a helicopter gunship…right?

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Again, a well thought-out, logical and developed argument, cjjack. Congrats!

  • zephyr

    16 years ago, the NRA managed to get Congress to pull funding on gun violence studies at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Even more disgusting than the NRA is a congress that bows down to them.

    Btw, loved the Archie Bunker bit. Hilarious of course, but also sad how many people actually think this way.

  • cjjack

    Thanks Dorian. I appreciate the feedback, and even more appreciate that the columnists and editors here take the time to read and respond to comments.

  • slamfu

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state”

    Well, that simply isn’t even true any more. If anything, I would say the various militia’s out there are sources of concern for the FBI and NSA. 30,000 Americans are getting shot to death each year. The tree of liberty as it pertains to this amendment is well watered.

  • zusa1

    It has been very difficult to control the trafficking of illegal drugs into the US. They flow across the southern border and right now, weapons flow south. We are not the only source of guns into Mexico, so how can we expect to prevent the trafficking of weapons into the US from the south? The UK and Australia have the benefit of being self contained.

    People who want drugs can get drugs. Can we have a reasonable expectation that the same won’t be true with guns?