Shooting Blanks

Jewish Light Editorial

“I believe — at a minimum — another 30 million new guns will be manufactured and sold before Barack Obama leaves office at the end of 2016.  I predict the numbers of firearms owned in the United States will easily top 400 million well before this decade is out. And to my mind, that’s a good thing.”

— Don Griffin, of Michigan Open Carry,, Nov. 4, 2014.

 We really don’t care what gun lobbyists say anymore.  While their dollars and threats continue to prevent reasonable gun controls throughout America, their words have become wholly irrelevant to creating effective public policy on guns.

That’s because the National Rifle Association and other, even more extremist, gun lobbying groups don’t want to be part of the matrix of actions that could significantly reduce gun-related deaths in the United States. Not only do they want to lay the blame on other social causes, but as the above quote shows, many consider their contribution — massive proliferation of weapons — to be a solution rather than a problem.


And every single time a gun-related tragedy occurs, those who aggressively block meaningful legislation continue to accuse control advocates of politicizing tragedy.

It happened again on the heels of the Virginia gun tragedy last week that left two associates of television station WDBJ dead. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke up about the need for better gun legislation, including more substantial background checks (which in many instances aren’t required at all for purchases from private sellers at gun shows). This is something that McAuliffe has advocated for a long time, and not in isolation — he’s made clear that addressing mental health programs and funding is also key in reducing gun-related deaths. We agree.

But that did not stop McAuliffe’s opponents from taking him to task. The shooter in this instance had a federal background check, so that wouldn’t have kept these murders from occurring, and besides, how dare McAuliffe start railing on gun issues while the family is still mourning?

McAuliffe is railing on gun issues (and mental health issues) while the family is mourning because the gun lobby does its best to help America forget about these tragedies as soon as possible after they occur. Their hope seems to be that the memory of such events recedes into the garbled mess of 24/7 news cycles, allowing the gun lobby to interject random facts and figures to throw attention away from guns as a cause in, well, gun-caused deaths.

But the NRA’s supposed empathy for the family was wholly contrary to what Andy Parker, the father of one of the two victims, told CNN: “(H)e wants to see a tightening of loopholes in gun laws and urged that the slaying of his daughter, Alison Parker, and cameraman Andy Ward remain in the news.”

After the Virginia slayings, the NRA tried to suggest that talking about gun control on the heels of a tragedy like this one was wrong and showed a “lack of shared humanity.” No, really, it did.

Gun lobbyists continue to make the utterly flawed argument that other causes besides gun possession lead to gun deaths (the infamous “people kill people”). The flaw in that thinking isn’t that other causes don’t exist; of course they do. Rather, it’s that when those causes are combined with gun possession, bad things are far, far more likely to happen than when the perpetrators have access only to less potent means of inflicting damage.

Sadly, it took less than another week for another national gun story to emerge — the brutal shooting of a Houston policeman as he was pumping gas. The alleged murderer had a criminal history of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct with a firearm.

But never fear — whether the victims are members of the media like in Virginia, or a police officer in Houston, or Charleston, or Sandy Hook, or Aurora, or Columbine, rest assured the gun lobby will utterly deny the role that gun possession and use play in the homicide rate in America.

We won’t stop talking about the embarrassing American catastrophe of gun deaths.  We’ll continue to speak out against those Missouri legislators who this spring tried to pass a bill neutralizing federal gun laws in our state (an effort that if successful would have almost certainly been determined unconstitutional). And we won’t cease the discussion immediately after tragedies as the NRA and their friends would prefer. 

Our view instead aligns with that of McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy, who on the heels of the Virginia slayings was quoted in the Washington Post as saying:

“The United States has averaged more than one mass shooting per day in the year 2015…In a country where these incidents happen virtually every day, when do these delegates think would be a good time to have this conversation?”