National Rifle Association leaders and gun enthusiasts fret over sensible background checks leading to a national registry of gun sales, purchases and owners. Why anyone who claims to care about the safety of Americans, including small children, would be opposed to a system that keeps track of the retail of firearms is baffling.
The notion that a national registry is tyrannical is absurd. If someone purchases a weapon that shoots bullets, they should be documented. With a right comes responsibility. We have the right to freedom of speech, but what we say can be threatening. Was there any backlash after the North Carolina man who threatened to kill President Barack Obama on Twitter back in September was arrested by the Secret Service?
The public conversation on gun control has become increasingly frustrating because it has distorted the truth of this debate. First off, public opinion numbers are on the side of gun critics. According to a national survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 89 percent of all respondents — and 75 percent of those identified as NRA members — support universal background checks for gun sales.
So why does the national debate on gun control continue to be dominated by the people who are against any type of practical gun regulation? Because the heads of the NRA and the Karl Roves of the United States will do anything to keep their guns.
Let’s keep in mind that the NRA has roughly 3 million members — a small percentage of the 70 million Americans who own firearms. But the measly 30 percent of NRA members who don’t want background checks are echoing on Capitol Hill.
The positions of the NRA are so entrenched in American gun culture today that many gun critics have given up any hope for true gun control legislation being passed, especially after the proposed assault weapons ban was just killed in Congress.
We need our own coalition — an association with as much recognition and as much of a voice as the NRA to fight back. We have sprawled-out gun control advocacy groups but we need a consolidated coalition that is going to address this issue with as much passion as the NRA. The NRA is not the voice of America on guns, but a distraction from a real solution to the problem. Its biggest advocates have misled and misinformed the American people, and it’s time the truth is just as loud as the lies.
The more attention paid to the gun control fight the better. We need to keep talking, raising awareness, participating in the debate and calling representatives. We need to start caring as deeply about the safety of people as much as the heads of the NRA care about holding onto their guns. Maybe then the prospect of gun control won’t be as hopeless in the face of a perverted gun culture that obsesses over a Second Amendment right but rejects any measures to ensure responsibility.
A version of this article appeared in the Mar. 26 print edition. Raquel Woodruff is deputy opinion editor. Email her at [email protected]