U.S. News

05.24.14

How the NRA Enables Massacres

As a shooting spree leaves seven dead in California, the gun lobby is trying to thwart attempts to study gun deaths and officials who see gun violence as a public health crisis.

Yet another massacre occurred last night at an institution of learning, this time the University of California, Santa Barbara. The price we paid for the National Rifle Association’s “freedom” was seven people murdered and seven injured at nine different crime scenes.

A young man who Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown called “severely mentally disturbed” drove by various student hangouts to commit an act of “premeditated mass murder” apparently—according to videos posted to YouTube and threats made to women on campus—due to his anger at being “rejected” by women on campus.

The NRA wants less information and more Santa Barbaras.

Of course, this is all too familiar: a young aggrieved male, mentally disturbed, threatening others—especially women—but still able to get his hands on a high-capacity magazine of the variety used in so many other mass murders. This doesn't happen in any other high income country with the regularity it does here; in fact, it almost never happens in any of them.

But here, in the good ole US of A, we’ve allowed a group of rich, entitled thugs who run an operation fronting for arms dealers—guys who represent a minority position on pretty much every issue having to do with reasonable regulation of firearms even among gun owners—to dictate our policies to cowardly, careerist politicians.

I already hear the outrage from the right: how can you blame the NRA? We need good guys to have guns, we have to stop the “haters” and “knockout gamers” and … I can't even bear to repeat the infantile and inane talking points coming from cynical and callous people like the NRA's Executive Vice President and foaming mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre.

We know how to stop these incidents, or at least greatly reduce them. We've seen other countries do it, such as Australia, which was averaging one of these massacres a year until their infamous Port Arthur Massacre in 1996. After which they completely overhauled their gun laws. Since then, a country with the same frontier history as the United States has not experienced one mass shooting. Not one. Their homicides and suicides have also precipitously dropped.

We, of course, could learn even more about how to stop these mass killings, as well as the everyday homicides, suicides and accidental killings that rob this nation of our youth, and everything they could have ever been. But this past week we've had numerous examples of how the NRA does their best to block this from happening, because they will gladly accept mass murder in Santa Barbara and Newtown, as well as an accidental bystander shooting in a neighborhood near you, if it keeps the dollars floating into their pockets from the ultimate blood-drenched 1%ers who own various staples of the gun industry

After attending the NRA's Convention in Indianapolis, I wrote recently in these pages about all the NRA does to encourage paranoia and hatred while selling the weaponry not of self protection or hunting, but war, to anyone with a stack of bills and a glint in their eye.

But this past week we've seen the other side of the coin. How the NRA works to suppress information that would lead to treating a public health catastrophe that claims over 30,000 lives per year and injures over 100,000 as that very thing, while fighting to ensure we have as little access to information as possible that might help save lives.

The simple fact is, much like with their friends on the right from the tobacco industry to the oil industry to the megachurch, science and information are the enemies of the NRA. They have proven they will do whatever it takes to make sure we have less of it, and more Santa Barbaras.

The clearest example, of course, is the NRA's labeling a bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) to allow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to once again use its considerable expertise to research gun violence prevention, “unethical.” Yes, they actually said that.

Because anyone who does statistically significant research on a public health problem from the angle of helping people and not profiting from misery, and again and again finds obvious truths such as owning guns makes you more likely to get shot, is not someone the NRA and its allies will countenance without smearing. I debated one of these types from the Second Amendment Foundation on NPR recently regarding the CDC. It is amazing how tongue-tied they get when you present them with irrefutable information.

As for the “unethical” attack, mind you, this comes from an organization that promotes the “work” of well-traveled right-wing welfare recipient John Lott, a clown and a fraud who has created studies lacking any statistical validity, has “lost” his research when asked to produce it, and actually got busted for creating a fake online persona—Mary Rosh—to show up in comments sections where he wrote articles to say how swell and dreamy he was as a professor. Unethical (and embarrassing), indeed.

As Rep. Maloney rightly put it, “In America, gun violence kills twice as many children as cancer, and yet political grandstanding has halted funding for public health research to understand this crisis.”

The NRA's fight to suppress information couldn't be more apparent than it is in a rather pathetically titled column in Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller this past Friday. (Side note: As the NRA usually shuts up for at least 72 hours after a shooting, lest they remind people of their position as an accessory, having their views aired mere hours before this latest tragedy is enlightening).

The piece, written by chief NRA lobbyist and super-shill Chris Cox, was actually named, “We Love Our Moms and Trust Our Doctors, But We Still Don’t Want Gun Control.” Yes, we're at the point where one of the top officials in the NRA feels the need to point out he has warm feelings for those who give life and those who save lives.

The reason for this, as he points out in his piece, is that he and his fellow street-war profiteers are fighting to block President Obama's U.S. Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, from being appointed. What was his crime? He has been honest about guns being a public health problem, and has made the common sense recommendation that civilians not be allowed to own military weaponry.

The NRA is worried that, like with smoking in the past, if we have a Surgeon General who tells the truth, they will see their profits plummet. In fact, they're not even trying to hide this fact (or doing a really, really bad job), as reported by Politico:

[Murthy's] strongly backed by several health constituencies, such as public health advocates, research organizations and physician groups. Yet the NRA, as well as some Republicans, say past Murthy statements in support of gun control indicate that he could use the surgeon general job to promote anti-gun policies. Murthy has stated that he would not focus on gun violence in the position.

Cox attacks Moms Demand Action in this piece too, because Shannon Watts and her group have also used available information in the age of social media—in this case photos of lunatics open-carrying long guns in family establishments and intimidating customers—to get Chipotle to tell the gun fondlers they don't want them bringing their weapons in their stores. And now Chili's and other eateries are considering taking similar action.

Also this past week, the House’s answer to untreated rabies, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), attempted to force more guns on military institutions that don't want them. Once again, we were forced to look at the NRA's enemy: actual information—some of it bravely provided by top military brass both active and retired, standing up to the lies of the NRA and its allies.

Retired Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D., even took the step of authoring a strongly worded letter to Congress, which laid out his thinking as follows:

As someone who has had to make the tough decisions about how best to manage service members under my command, I urge you to oppose Mr. Gohmert's Amendment. This amendment will only cause more stress, confusion, and danger on military bases.

Later that night, Gohmert went to the House floor, defeated, and pulled his amendment.

Sadly for the NRA, we are in the Information Age, and the truth is starting to regularly get past their efforts to thwart it. But sadly for the rest of us—and at this moment, most tragically, the victims at Santa Barbara—the NRA have been so successful at bullying, threatening and obfuscating for so long, that we likely have too many more UC Santa Barbaras to come.