GUN CONTROL: My open letter appealing to President Obama, my 2 U.S. senators, my congressman, my state senators and my assemblyman to stand up to the NRA.   Leave a comment

As a physician specializing in psychiatry, I am committed to reducing human suffering. Additionally, I am a child psychiatrist committed to the welfare of children. In December 2012, a heavily armed gunman in Newtown, Conn. slaughtered twenty elementary school children in their classrooms and six adult women. The following week, President Obama said he would submit broad, new gun control proposals to Congress. But key House Republicans restated their firm opposition to enacting any new limits on firearms or ammunition.

The National Rifle Association prefers to represent itself as an association of gun owners. What was once a modest gun rights and gun safety organization is long gone. Today, the NRA is primarily a marketing organization for gun and ammunition manufacturers. In reality only a tiny proportion of gun owners are actually NRA members. About 90 million Americans own guns. The NRA claims to have about four million members. That represents only 4.4 percent of gun owners.

On December 21 (a week after the Newtown, Connecticut massacre), a NY Times editorial stated: “The association presents itself as a grass-roots organization, but it has become increasingly clear in recent years that it represents gun makers. Its chief aim has been to help their businesses by increasing the spread of firearms throughout American society.” Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s $970,000-a-year CEO, most famously offered the solution “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Guess who benefits when good guys also buy guns.

The NRA is essentially a lobby for selling guns and ammunition. It opposes virtually every form of gun control, – restrictions on owning assault weapons, background checks for gun owners, and registration of firearms. On its website, the National Rifle Association claims that it “is not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers”. CEO LaPierre describes the NRA as the voice of gun owners which defends the Second Amendment rights of Americans to buy and own guns. But this is misleading.

According to a recent survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz — very few rank-and-file NRA members agree with the NRA’s position on gun control. Luntz’s survey revealed that 82 percent of gun owners — and 74 percent of NRA members — support requiring criminal background checks for gun purchasers, despite the NRA’s antagonism on the issue.

When the NRA has had to choose between the interests of gun and ammunition manufacturers vs. protecting its gun-owning members, it revealed its loyalty to manufacturers. In 2005, the NRA successfully lobbied for a law that left gun owners liable but gave gun manufacturers and distributors immunity from lawsuits by victims of gun violence — legislation sponsored by GOP Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, an NRA board member.

The NRA’s political activities are designed to oppose restrictions on gun sales and scare gun owners into anticipating that the government may soon restrict or confiscate weapons – inducing them to buy more guns, donate to the NRA, and vote for “pro-gun” candidates.

The NRA and gun makers oppose sensible laws, such as Brady background checks or the registration of guns. The gun lobby rightfully acknowledges that there are many factors that influence gun violence, but they stubbornly deny that easy access to firearms and assault weapons are among factors that make it easier to massacre many people at once.

The NRA’s lobbying success even reached inside the Centers for Disease Control, the government agency that previously financed significant research in guns as a public health issue, The CDC financed studies that found, for example, that having a gun in the house, rather than reducing gun violence, significantly increased the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance. Representative Jay Dickey, Republican of Arkansas, succeeded in pushing through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the disease control centers’ budget in 1996, the same amount it had spent on firearms-related research the year before.

The often debated Second Amendment, reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns. The Supreme Court ruled again in June 2010 that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to have a gun. A key point of the new ruling was to extend the constitutional protection of the right to bear arms at the state and local level.

The NRA loudly protests its patriotism, its support of our Constitution. But perhaps this patriotic support is really a screen for its support of the Second Amendment, which forbids the law to infringe on the right to bear arms. Perhaps those who love the Second Amendment and claim to love freedom are really more infatuated with guns or with selling guns. The gun lobby claims we need assault weapons to protect us from a tyrannical government. But our freedom to vote protects us from tyranny. So, we must use that vote.

I have grown weary of the NRA’s arguments – freedom, tyranny, self-defense, a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun, and opposing restrictions on owning assault weapons, background checks for gun owners, and registration of firearms. The NRA refuses to acknowledge a link between assault weapons and the mass killings that occur in our country. The best solution to the carnage is not a good guy with a gun but the repeal of the second amendment.

Under pressure now because of the heart-rending massacre of elementary school children, the gun lobby and its legislative backers are willing to consider a ban on high-capacity magazines, like the 15- and 30-round guns that have been used in recent massacres. But this is a classic extremist tactic. Maintain a totally uncompromising position and then compromise with a mildly less extreme position. Don’t fall for the half-hearted compromise. The NRA will continue to try to spread guns throughout America.

We have changed the Constitution many times. We have repealed prohibition; we have ended slavery, we no longer count blacks as 2/3 of a person for the purpose of apportioning representatives to each state; women have acquired the right to vote. The Constitution was intended to be a living document.  Repeal the Second Amendment so that it will be legal to place infringements on the right to bear arms. After all, where is the “well regulated militia” specified in that Second Amendment?

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Posted February 20, 2013 by Les Linet MD in Gun Control and the Second Amendment

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