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Looking for ways to explain America’s epidemic of mass shootings -- including Friday’s murder of 27 people, including 20 children, at a Connecticut elementary school – many pundits are blaming the country’s “culture of violence” and its preference for “protecting guns over children.” But the majority of Americans favor strict gun control laws.  No, let's not burden Americans with collective guilt.  The problem is more narrow -- and more fixable -- than that.  

Looking for ways to explain America’s epidemic of mass shootings -- including Friday’s murder of 27 people, including 20 children, at a Connecticut elementary school – many pundits are blaming the country’s “culture of violence” and its preference for “protecting guns over children.” But the majority of Americans favor strict gun control laws.  No, let's not burden Americans with collective guilt.  The problem is more narrow -- and more fixable -- than that.  

The long list of killings is due in large measure to the political influence of the National Rifle Association and, in particular, Wayne LaPierre, who for the past 21 years has been the NRA's executive Vice President and chief political strategist.

The blood of the 26 victims of the Connecticut shooting, including 20 young children, is on LaPierre's hands. Of course, LaPierre didn't pull the trigger, but he's the NRA's hit man when it comes to intimidating elected officials to oppose any kind of gun control and the nation's most vocal advocate of gun owner rights.  

Although LaPierre likes to portray the NRA as representing grassroots gun owners, the bulk of its money comes from gun manufacturers.  LaPierre is a corporate lobbyist.  He doesn’t speak for most gun owners, a majority of whom favor stricter gun laws, according to surveys.

The United States ranks first in the world -- by a wide margin -- in gun-related civilian deaths and injuries. We have the most guns and the weakest gun laws.

We've almost become used to a regular diet of gun-toting rampages. The most visible of them -- like Columbine, the Virginia Tech killings,  the murders in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, and the Arizona shooting that nearly claimed the life of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and left six others dead   -- stick in our minds, but there are many others.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011, there were 15,953 murders in U.S.; 11,101 (30 a day) were caused by firearms. Suicides and unintentional shootings accounted for another 20,000 deaths.

Adam Lanza -- the 20-year old man who walked into the Newtown, Connecticut school with two firearms (a Glock and a Sig Saurer) and had another gun (a 223 Bushmaster) in his car - is no doubt deranged.   If we make it easy for crazy people to obtain guns, they are more likely to translate their psychological problems into dangerous and deadly anti-social behavior.

Most gun-related deaths are committed by people who purchase their weapons legally. Others purchase or steal them illegally, but their ability to get access to guns is due to our lax laws on gun ownership.  

LaPierre's job is to make it easier for people to buy and use guns. And so far he's been very successful. Since the 1994 assault-weapon ban expired in 2004, Congress hasn't enacted any major gun regulations.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1990, the gun lobby, led by the NRA, has contributed $29.2 million to candidates for Congress and president, 87% of it to Republicans. In the most recent election cycle, gun rights groups donated $3.1 million to political candidates and spent another $5.5 million in lobbying.

In contrast, since 1990 gun control groups have donated only $1.9 million to politicians, 94% to Democrats. In the most recent election cycle, these groups contributed only $4,000 to candidates and spent only $420,00 on lobbying.

Under LaPierre’s leadership, the NRA has aligned itself with the most reactionary political forces in the country, including the Tea Party.

In a  speech earlier this year to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, LaPierre said that President Obama was part of a "conspiracy to ensure re-election by lulling gun owners to sleep."

LaPierre added: "All that first term, lip service to gun owners is just part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term." He also warned that everything that "gun owners across America have fought to achieve over the past three decades could be lost" if Obama won a second term.

Well, Obama did win a second term. On Friday, Obama called for "meaningful action" to curb gun violence.  "Meaningful action" does not mean educating young people about bullying and violence. It does not mean instructing gun owners to be more responsible.  It means pushing for strong gun control laws.  

If Obama does take this kind of leadership, he will have the support of an overwhelming proportion of Americans who support stricter guns laws.  About 80% of Americans support limiting the sales of military-style assault weapons, background checks on private sales of guns, and  requiring a police permit before the purchase of a gun.  

Until we tame the NRA’s power, we can expect more killings like the one in Connectuct as well as the deadly daily diet of murders throughout America committed by angry and in some cases crazy gun-toting people whose "freedom" to own weapons of mass destruction LaPierre and the NRA defends.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics at Occidental College. His new book, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, was published  by Nation Books in July.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There's one way to defang the NRA (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CroneWit, a2nite, Sharoney

    If enough members who actually support common-sense gun regulations and gun laws break away, the NRA's raison d'etre--to be the spokesman for all "honest gun owners"--disappears.

    Romney-Ryan: America's Rollback Team

    by Christian Dem in NC on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 02:54:16 PM PST

  •  More NRA info -- (5+ / 0-)
    Over the past two decades, the NRA has not only been able to stop gun control laws, but even debate on the subject. The Centers for Disease Control funds research into the causes of death in the United States, including firearms — or at least it used to. In 1996, after various studies funded by the agency found that guns can be dangerous, the gun lobby mobilized to punish the agency. First, Republicans tried to eliminate entirely the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the bureau responsible for the research. When that failed, Rep. Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, successfully pushed through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget (the amount it had spent on gun research in the previous year) and outlawed research on gun control with a provision that reads: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
    http://www.salon.com/...
    And I'll re-post one of my earlier comments here:
    99 laws in 37 states 2009-2012
    making guns easier to own, easier to carry in public—eight states now even allow them in bars—and harder for the government to track
    http://www.motherjones.com/....
    (Other highly relevant artices can be found starting here: http://www.motherjones.com/....

    the quoted MoJo article points to "NRA and its allies".  Who are these allies?  Is ALEC (or similar) writing these laws?

    Another commentor answered my by saying that yes, ALEC was behind those laws.

    The Salon article says that both NIH and CDC research was de-funded, with specific language forbidding research into anything related to 'gun control'.  This, to me, is direct and powerful interference with Congress' duty to promote the public good, and an interference with the First Amendment (in that it blocks information).  And even if you don't agree with me on that, it still looks as though NRA has way too much power, both in its interference in Federal government and in its influence on state governments.

    May I respectfully request that those of us here at dKos who are NRA members use this moment to reconsider their membership?  Find or create a group that protects guns for home protection, hunting, and other sportmanship (skeet, rifle ranges etc) but that also supports sensible gun safety regulations.

  •  I actually think this is a good start. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CroneWit, ssgbryan
    No, let's not burden Americans with collective guilt.
    As someone so aptly put it yesterday, we adults let those children down.

    The question is how are we going to do our best, collectively, to stop this from happening again.

  •  Bloomberg should spend them into the ground (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ssgbryan

    If Michael Bloomberg is really serious he will hold a press conference on Monday and announce the following:

    "I have committed to spend every penny of my billion dollar fortune to neutralize the NRA as a factor in our national politics.  I will use my fortune and connections and prominence to bankroll a national anti-NRA PAC and for every dollar the NRA spends, we will spend two or three or ten.  Whatever it takes to restore sanity to our gun laws."

    Dulce bellum inexpertis [War is sweet only to those who have no experience of it].

    by Fatherflot on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 03:27:34 PM PST

  •  NRA & ALEC are tied together; their goals are the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jedennis

    Same, namely for us to hate each other. We (someone not  me) loves guns; we vote to screw each other; they want us to kill each other to make it  easier for gun sales. It is easier to buy a gun than to vote. We are an evil people; that is okay.

  •  I Wonder (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arcana

    If LaPierre lost a child or a grandchild to this madness, would that soften his heart?

    Or is he such a money grubbing piece of garbage, he doesn't care at all.

    The latter, I think.

    Dig the new single from Papa Knuckerhole himself: http://soundcloud.com/jangellamf/my-les

    by Johnny Wendell on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 08:55:36 PM PST

  •  I think those in the NRA have penis envy (0+ / 0-)

    Why would someone need a HUGE cartridge magazine on their fake assault rifle?

    Could it be compensation for their fears that they have tiny dicks?  I mean, a hundred-shot clip?  Are they that bad shots?  or are they trying to pretend to be Commandos?  Is that what people who feel their parts aren't...   quite impressive enough...  do to try to convince people they are really manly dudes?

    Seriously?  What kind of a wussy boy needs a big huge scary gun to show how important they are?

    Crackpots, all of them, from grossly overpaid La Pierre on down to a local idiot.  Or worse than an idiot.

    Let's start calling them out for what they are.  Childish, paranoid dolts.  Maybe they should rename the NRA the CPD?

    Hmmm...

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