Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Gun Speech for Obama

"It has become painfully obvious that we have a problem with gun violence in this country. Guns are a very divisive and polarized issue, with strong opinions on both sides. That's OK. In a democracy, what we do is talk to people on the other side, and try to find areas of agreement.

"And in fact, I think there are substantial areas of agreement between the two sides. Unfortunately, it's been difficult to find those areas of agreement, because some people benefit from polarization. Foremost among them is the National Rifle Association.

"The NRA gets its power because many gun-owning voters assume that someone who gets an "A" rating from the NRA must be better than someone who gets a "B"  rating. They assume this because they think the NRA must be serving the interests of its members.

"Actually, it's the other way around: the members are serving the interests of the NRA. The NRA is an extremist organization, and its opinions are far more extreme than those of most of its members.

"A recent survey showed, for example, that 74 percent of current and former NRA members support background checks for anyone buying a gun, and 79 percent favor background checks for employees of gun retailers. Not the NRA. What about denying guns to people on the terrorist watch list? Seems like a no-brainer, right?  If you think that, then 71 percent of current and former NRA members agree with you. Not the NRA.

"The NRA has in fact been doing it best to scare gun owners into thinking that any politician who disagrees with any of their extreme positions is "anti-gun," "anti-Second-Amendment," and waiting for the opportunity to take away all guns. Here's the fact: Guns are dangerous. Like all dangerous things, they need to be regulated to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands. Most gun owners know that.

"I haven't seen a poll on the attitude of NRA members toward a ban on assault weapons, but the NRA's attitude toward it borders on hysteria. Yet until 2004 we were getting along fine without assault weapons. These are weapons for which there is no plausible need other than killing large numbers of people. You don't need an assault weapon to defend your home, except in some some adolescent fantasy involving black helicopters or zombies. But it's proven to be very popular among mass murderers. I know that, now these weapons have been legal for a while, people have tried them and find that shooting them is fun. Sorry. If you're going to live among other people, you can't do everything that might be fun.

"Finally, aside from keeping guns out of the hands of dangerously unstable people, we have to try to reduce the number of dangerously unstable people. That means we have to do something to make sure mental health services are available, particularly for adolescent boys and young men. That means-- let's be clear about this-- spending more. Can we do that, with our deficit problems ? Of course we can. Here's the first thing we owe our children and grandchildren: to keep them safe."

Note: I didn't start out intending to say so much about the NRA. But as I was writing, it became apparent that the politics of this issue does not work without confronting head-on the belief of many gun owners that the NRA speaks for them.

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