It’s recently become abundantly clear that the U.S. has a major problem with guns in the hands of crazy people. No other industrialized nation has anything like the rate of gun-caused deaths as we do. It’s not likely that the U.S. has a significantly higher proportion of crazy people than other nations. But we do have more guns.
The National Rifle Association has to take some credit for this. They have successfully lobbied Congress for decades to resist even moderate restrictions on gun ownership. Some of the NRA’s recent positions seem crazy. The NRA opposes background checks on all gun sales, opposes having to notify police when guns are lost or stolen, and supports gun ownership for people on terrorism watch lists; 75%, 64%, and 71%, respectively, of NRA members disagree with these positions. And, while the NRA has been lobbying for national legislation making concealed handguns legal everywhere, most NRA members believe that states should make their own laws for concealed handguns. (For background and details on this information see http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kapil-khatter/nra-gun-control_b_2372471.html )
Why would the NRA be more extreme than its own members? A likely reason is that the NRA is not really a gun owners’ lobby as much as it is a gun manufacturers’ lobby. It’s become a trade organization, with large annual contributions from gun manufacturers. And, like most trade organizations, it can be counted on to push for whatever will make its corporate members more profitable, anything that will help them sell more guns.
Congress has faced pressures from entrenched manufacturers before. It faced such from the auto industry when it became clear, in the 1960s, that cars were causing air pollution. It faced pressure from the chemical industry when it became clear that DDT and other chlorinated pesticides were wiping out predator birds and when it was proved that CFCs were depleting stratospheric ozone. It faced pressure from the lead industry when it became clear that lead in paint was damaging children’s health. Congress rose above these pressures and enacted measures that controlled these problems.
This coming year, may Congress to take a hard look at the acute problem that virtually unbridled gun ownership has created in this country, see beyond the arguments of the NRA, cloaked in the guise of personal freedom and safety, for more sales and profits for the gun industry, and enact legislation that will lead to a major reduction in gun-related deaths.