Thursday, January 17, 2013

Open Letter to the NRA

Dear NRA,

You are, collectively, a shameful excuse for an American organization. Period. A movement with your resources and the support of 4.3 million members could accomplish any number of amazing things in this world. Instead, you fight to protect and promote the supply and demand of massively destructive weapons, despite the overwhelming evidence that this contributes to thousands of needless deaths. Worse still, you do it under the guise of defending Americans' fundamental right to bear arms. You are doing no such thing. If the second amendment right is defensible at all, you are the scourge of that right.

You have repeatedly claimed, in the wake of mass shootings, that "now is not the time" for a conversation about gun policy. (When, then?) In mere anticipation of the President's gun policy proposals, with no specifics in hand, you paint him as a hypocrite by drawing a ludicrous comparison between Secret Service protection and an ordinary citizen's defense of his home, knowing full well that whatever proposals he offers will not impede the ability of a responsible person to keep a gun to protect his family (and if you really want to make a Secret Service comparison, lets start with the extraordinary level of screening and training agents must undergo in order to carry those guns they have).

And now you are "outraged" by the landmark laws just passed in New York State, calling them "draconian." Please explain which one of these new laws is a violation of the right to bear arms? Is it the banning of high-capacity magazines? The expanded ban on assault weapons with military-style features? The background checks prior to purchases? The ability of psychologists to report a patient they see as a gun threat? Which of these infringes on your right to keep a gun in your home to protect your family, or your right to hunt, or your right to shoot targets for sport, or your right to be prepared to join a Revolutionary War-era militia should such an opportunity present itself? No matter how one interprets the second amendment, no matter why one believes it's a right worth defending, nothing in the New York State laws comes anywhere close to infringing on that right, because the second amendment asserts our right to bear arms, not to possess unlimited and unconditional deadly force.

I believe there is, in theory, a sensible argument to be made in support of protecting a citizen's right to have a gun. And the NRA is nowhere near making that argument. I would hope that any clear-headed and compassionate proponent of gun rights would be appalled by you and your farcical campaign.

If you were one person, I could dismiss you, but the you represent the collective consciousness and financial investment of 4.3 million Americans who are, at best, ignorant, reckless and misguided, and at worst selfish, greedy, and soulless. That's what kills me, is that you're not some unfortunate but tiny fringe group like the Westboro Baptist Church. Because of your size and your ability to maintain an air of undeserved credibility, you are far more dangerous and depressing. Whether you're the NRA President, a wealthy gun manufacturer, or just a "proud card-carrying member," you are actively impeding change that will *not* threaten an American's second amendment right but may save thousands of American lives. And as long as you continue to oppose change in this absolutist fashion, you have blood on your hands. If you are my close friend and I discover you support the NRA (not gun rights but specifically the NRA), I will almost certainly think less of you. If the NRA was ever serious about protecting the second amendment, it isn't any longer. It's supporting a fanatical appetite for, and attachment to, weapons of mass destruction, and the profiteering from those appetites.

I'm sure you get thousands of open letters. This is just mine. But I want to be clear I'm addressing all 4.3 million of you. If you're serious about protecting American citizens while defending our second amendment right, you should leave the NRA and join a responsible gun lobby, if such a thing even exists. And if it doesn't exist, you should help start one.

As for the rest, there's nothing American about what you're doing.


Jim Cooney

*Read some follow-up discussion/debate here.

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