In his news appearance today Wayne LaPierre, the Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association, made this dubious claim:
[N]obody has addressed the most important, pressing and immediate question we face: How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?
That might sound like a profoundly stupid claim, considering that a lot of people have, in fact, been addressing that very issue. But since the NRA believes there’s only one possible answer to the question, they assume the question really hasn’t been addressed. The NRA’s answer, of course, is we need more guns.
More guns. For three and a half decades, that’s been the NRA’s answer. Since 1977, when new leadership took over the NRA, the group has been pressing the ‘more guns’ solution. They’ve stopped representing hunters and ordinary folks; now they represent firearms manufacturers. What do firearms manufactures want to sell? More guns.
In his speech today, LaPierre pointed out that
[F]ederal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40 percent, to the lowest levels in a decade.
What he neglected to mention is the NRA’s role in that situation. LaPierre failed to note his group has helped Republicans draft legislation making it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute firearms cases.
Because of Republicans in Congress (all of whom are supported by the NRA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (the only federal agency allowed to investigate federal firearms crime) has fewer field agents now than it did 40 years ago. There are fewer than 2500 agents to oversee the activities of more than 60,000 licensed gun licensed gun dealers (and nobody knows how many unlicensed gun dealers). The BATF hasn’t had a Director for more than six years, because Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm any nominee not supported by the NRA.
The NRA drafted legislation offered and passed by Republicans that prohibit the BATF by law from performing more than a single unannounced inspection of a licensed firearms dealer in any 12-month period. The BATF is also prohibited from requiring gun dealers to conduct inventory checks to detect loss and theft. What do those limitations mean for criminals? More guns.
The NRA also drafted and lobbied for a Republican-sponsored law requiring the Justice Department and the FBI to destroy within 24 hours the records of all gun buyers whose background checks were approved. That makes it harder to catch gun dealers who falsify their records. It also makes it more difficult for law enforcement to identify and track straw purchasers (people who buy guns for folks who wouldn’t be able to pass a background check). What does that put in the hands of more criminals? More guns.
If that’s not enough, the BATF is also prevented by law from providing gun trace data to municipal and state law enforcement agencies. This data can show where illegal guns are coming from, who buys them, and how they travel across state lines. Criminological studies consistently reveal that most of the firearms seized at crime scenes are sold by a very small percentage of licensed gun dealers. The denial of that sort of information means it’s almost impossible to prosecute gun dealers who supply criminals with more guns.
In fact, Riverview Gun Sales, the gun shop that sold the weapons used in the Newtown, CT school shooting, also sold the weapons used to kill eight people in Hartford, CT in 2010. In 2007, an employee of that same gun shop was accused of stealing 33 firearms from the shop’s inventory. Only two of those guns were recovered. The man pleaded ‘no contest’ to stealing those two guns; he received an 18 month suspended sentence.
So LaPierre is right. Gun prosecutions are down — and we have the NRA to thank for that. And criminals can also thank the NRA for giving them greater access to more guns.
The NRA’s solution to the tragedy in Newtown, CT isn’t to make it more difficult for crazy people to arm themselves. Their answer is more guns. Their answer is to turn schools into armed camps. LaPierre said this today:
[W]e need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work and by that I mean armed security.
Rather than try to prevent the shootings, the NRA’s answer to school shooting is to make somebody available to return fire. More guns.
LaPierre did say one thing today that I agree with completely. He said,
If we truly cherish our kids, more than our money, more than our celebrities, more than our sports stadiums, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible.
He’s right, we must give school children the greatest level of protection possible. But that doesn’t mean arming teachers or placing armed, uniformed guards in every schoolhouse in the US. It doesn’t mean providing still more guns. The greatest level of protection would be to make it more difficult for deranged people to obtain a firearm. It would be to reduce the number of rounds that deranged people can fire. Giving the greatest level of protection would include giving BATF and other law enforcement agencies the tools they need to actively investigate and prosecute firearms violations.
You know what else ‘giving school children the greatest level of protection possible’ would mean? It would mean telling the National Rifle Association to go fuck itself.