NRA CEO Flatly Refuses to Engage in Open Conversation on Gun Violence

by: Chris Blask

Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 12:12:19 PM EST

On Meet the Press this morning, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre stated plainly that the NRA will not take part in any conversations concerning limiting access to weapons or the types of weapons that are legally available. The NRA will talk about locking up criminals, but will not talk about limiting their access to weapons once they are released.

Mr. LaPierre refused to answer any questions or to provide any comment as to whether or not it was in any way possible to talk about any potential changes to the types of weapons that are generally available for sale, and he refused to give an answer of any type to whether it would be possible to have any form of conversation about requiring anyone to prove they are not a convicted criminal, on the terrorist watch list or in any other way legally restricted from purchasing firearms.

None of us know for certain what could or should be done to address gun violence. Many of us have our opinions. Many of us believe adamantly that we need many more guns, many of us believe adamantly that we should have none. Many, like myself, are deeply conflicted on the topic and - while we have strong opinions in one or several directions - believe we first and foremost have to agree to remove all barriers to conversation and engage openly and honestly with each other.

Chris Blask :: NRA CEO Flatly Refuses to Engage in Open Conversation on Gun Violence
As a political centrist who has voted for both major US parties (and a minor one or two) I feel that I have some right to judge the behavior of both sides. While I see some reason to criticize some politicians and public leaders on the left on this issue, I cannot with any honesty share the blame equally. Mr. LaPierre is in a position of public responsibility but completely and without reservation refuses to in any way provide any comment directly or indirectly about any even theoretical possibility of even engaging in a conversation with includes mention of any changes to guns themselves or access to them. Mr. Obama and the vast majority of Democratic politicians and other politically left-oriented public figures have gone to visible effort to offer to discuss any topic that could potentially be related to gun violence. I will, again, do the same before I go on.

I do not have any guns, but I know and deeply respect many friends and family who not only have guns but feel extremely strongly that they are necessary for protection and/or a fundamental right which cannot be infringed upon. I do not know the solution to gun violence, and while I do not believe increasing their availability will reduce gun violence I will - and frequently do - listen to and talk with those who believe this to be the case. They may in fact be correct, and if this turns out to be the case and I had refused to discuss the possibility I would feel personal responsibility for the harm that came to others due to my silence.

What I am certain of is that there will be absolutely no progress on this issue as long as leaders from the political right are willing to be part of these conversations. There is absolutely nothing honorable in refusing to participate in civilized discourse. It is disgraceful, shameful, dishonorable and disrespectful to refuse to engage in discussion with others when one is in a position of responsibility, which on this topic every single one of is in fact in.

I go on record as pledging to publicly disavow any support for any person or group who claims to represent my interests but who refused to engage in civil discourse with those who disagree with them. I further pledge to publicly call for any such leader of any such group to reverse their refusal to engage in civil discourse with those they disagree with.

It is my hope that my friends and family would equally agree with me on the requirement that those who represent their views engage in the same level of civil discourse they expect of themselves. To that end, I would respectfully suggest that those among you who support the general views of conservative political and public leaders - and specifically the CEO of the NRA - publicly insist that its leadership engage in open discussion of gun violence.

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some thoughts... (2.00 / 7)
(1) If LaPierre really believes that an individual's right to own firearms of any type is inviolate, then he probably sees conversation as pointless.  I don't see this as surprising.  It may actually help gun control advocates that he is unwilling to give a nanometer, because the fight is a long hard one that ends necessarily at SCOTUS.

(2) The SCOTUS decisions District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), drew some clear lines as to the legal interpretation of the second amendment. To my mind, they radically changed the interpretation, but then I'm not a lawyer.  From Heller (Scalia writing):

The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

The District's total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of "arms" that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition-in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute-would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional. Because Heller conceded at oral argument that the D. C. licensing law is permissible if it is not enforced arbitrarily and capriciously, the Court assumes that a license will satisfy his prayer for relief and does not address the licensing requirement. Assuming he is not disqualified from exercising Second Amendment rights, the District must permit Heller to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.

There is hope for some level of restriction (registration for example), but most ownership restrictions will fail until the Court's composition changes.  A constitutional amendment to revise the 2nd would be an impossible sell into today's congress.

I highly recommend the wikipedia entry in its entirety.

The NRA is a fearmongering, conspiracy driven waste of time. (2.00 / 7)
I don't own a gun.  And I'm not sure why some of us feel the need to preface comments by saying so since it really doesn't matter.  But there are two reasons I don't own a gun: I've always heard that if you point it you need to be prepared to shoot it.  If I did it would be largely out of fear and I'm not sure that's a good thing.  And, as someone who suffers from severe episodes of depression I really do not need a gun in my house.  My "weapon" of choice as always been a bottle of booze but I certainly don't need to put temptation out there.

But no one, or only a few, are talking about taking away anyone's guns.  I could even see agreeing to people owning semi-automatics if they kept them at a shooting range.  Other than proving the size of their dick no one needs that kind of weapon in the home.  I also don't see where there is any expectation of ammo ownership.  I suppose it is implied but jack the price up via tax.  Hell, tax the shit out of guns, too.

The simple fact is that it is way too easy to buy a gun, Constitutional right or not.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

Some comments from conversations on FB (2.00 / 5)
My own, unless noted otherwise.

Re: a 2nd Amendment explanation

Thanks for the link, the author frames it well. I'm still not in agreement, but the history is laid out well.

Let me offer some comments on his narrative:

While he is certainly correct in the European history of arms control by ruling classes as it evolved from feudal times, this story did not end in the late 1700s and has continued to evolve. The author correctly notes that firearm ownership in the modern world is symbolic and not functional, which I agree with. He goes on to say that he believes nation states are set to collapse, at which point our views diverge.

During our lifetimes, being the same age, we have seen repeated forecasts of the imminent doom of civilization. Each of these has consistently succeeded in proving completely false, and there is nothing I see today - despite looking more closely into the current panalopy of theories than I did into the ones I bought into as a younger man - that supports this conclusion. What I see is a much broader base of stable societies and a continuing progression in that direction. We can have that conversation at length separately, but for our purposes here we are all generally assuming the issue is not a sudden collapse of modern society but rather the issue of how we operate within it.

So, given that support of the 2nd is today intrinsically a symbolic exercise to keep societal ownership and responsibility in the hands of citizens - something I adamantly support - the specific types of weapons citizens have is in large part insignificant. Mounted 50 caliber guns or shoulder-launched missiles would be no more effective at holding off the US Army than air rifles. The effort on the part of those - including myself - who support a strong symbol of citizen ownership should and does include reasonable restrictions to allow those symbols to exist without presenting unreasonable risks to civil society.

The other point I disagree with the author on is whether there is a class warfare underway where intellectuals are plotting to take power away from citizens. Again, despite arguments put forward to support such views (which the author does not provide in this piece), I not only do not see signs that this is the case but in most cases quite the opposite. True "Marxists" or equivalent "socialists" as described by those who posit such arguments are today rare fringe individuals no different than the "weekend warriors" the author describes who believe they are going to fight off the US army. Even on liberal blogs like DailyKos they get razzed into a corner by the very liberal majority, and in modern politics they are as viable as Hugo Chavez in Harlem ( :one of the most liberal federal politicians ripped him a new orifice for spouting his crap there).

The final area I largely (but am on the fence to a certain extent) disagree with the author on is whether a continuously-armed citizenry is necessary to maintain local civil order. On the one hand I like and support in my own life the notion of citizens taking personal responsibility for keeping order, on the other I have serious doubts as to whether firearms are the best approach. I have never needed one, despite having more than enough personal experience standing up to dangerous (and sometimes armed) people behaving poorly. There are no situations in my own life where a firearm would have made any such situations less dangerous for myself or others around me, and I believe would have made those situations much more likely to result in harm to myself of others.

The author makes much more cogent explanation for the 2nd amendment argument than most, but unless civilization is going to fall shortly or we do in fact find ourselves in a situation where firearms provide more benefit than threat in developed countries, I still have to disagree with the arguments for increasing rather than decreasing their saturation and lethality. The argument for requiring in all cases - without massive loopholes like gun shows and personal sales - some form of consistent licensing or validation prior to ownership appear to me reasonable and consistent with current civil arrangements. I am less certain that changes to the lethality of publicly available firearms would have as much potential positive effect, but since we already accept that we will not allow tanks and nuclear weapons to be sold at gun shops (and I don't believe in a conspiracy to disarm the populace), it appears to me just a minor discussion on a matter of scale rather than any sort of threat of tyranny, and as such a reasonable conversation for everyone concerned to engage in.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

A few more.. (2.00 / 5)
I would compromise all my values to make my kids safe and well, but I am completely unconvinced that armed guards everywhere are the answer. It may be possible to make them safe that way - though I doubt it very much - but it certainly is not a way to make them well.

Colombine had armed guards, it didn't work. Fort Hood was an armed encampment, it didn't help. One armed guard per school won't work, we would need several at small schools and dozens at large schools. Assume five at each of 100,000 schools, now we have a half million armed guards and there aren't that many veterans to be had (nor the $25 billion per year to hire them, or the billions to arm and screen them...).

Guards with handguns against every possible threat wouldn't work, either. So let's talk about how well it will make our children to go into and out of their schools every day past armored guards carrying assault weapons. How confident and stable will it make them to spend their entire lives under the visible looming threat of violence, every day, in person, from birth to adulthood?

The total number of children killed in school violence in the US between 1999 and 2009 is 284. The number of children killed accidentally by guns in 2006 alone was 196 (assuming that is an average year that makes 1,960 during that same period). An average of 800 children per year during that period died from drowning.

So, to protect my children from a 0.000003% chance of being killed violently at school we need to increase their exposure to an instrument that is ten times as likely to accidentally kill them, and to raise them in an environment that teaches them that they can only be safe with heavily armed uniformed officials watching over them? This will make them safer, make them stronger, make them better people?

I don't think so. As someone who weighs the application of resources to improve security in hostile environments the math does not add up. In fact, it looks like the typical example of allowing the perception bias of remote threats dictate the application of resources incorrectly. It looks like what I see all the time in my line of work, where those who take security seriously - but who do not make fact-based assessments of risks - do more harm to their ability to act freely and effectively than the threats they worry about ever could.

No, a police state is not the answer.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
another (2.00 / 5)
the logic of unrestricted expansion in armed forces within the US is an argument that doesn't scale well. Once we up-arm the guards at the first 10,000 schools and staff and arm guards at the next 90,000 we've just begun. The 100,000 public K-12 schools don't include colleges and universities, which have larger campuses and many already patrolled by guards or having their own police forces. These need to be all expanded and up-armed.

School buses will become the next targets, so we will need armed guards on them as well, capable of dealing with threats of any type. Churches and synagogues and mosques are already targets, so we need guards with high-powered weapons at those, too. Restaurants are next, and street corners really aren't that safe either...

As has been noted, among the issues is the continuous slide into an armed police state saturated with government forces. Aside from being undesirable in a general manner, it is specifically the primary concern that is presented as being the reason for citizens to arm themselves to protect against. The linear logic of creating an armed and patrolled police state at every level of society leads to support the citizens themselves needing to increase their own armament to protect themselves from the government armed forces (which they hired to protect them from themselves), requiring further up-arming and multiplying of the government forces... and so the circle continues.

As for terrorists, being able to inflict death to them in no way prevents them from inflicting death first. By definition today, whether home-grown or otherwise, these individuals have no intention of getting out alive in the first place. The logical progression necessary to prevent them by force of arms is to place better-armed government forces outside every doorway, lest the last remaining un-guarded doorway become the last 'soft target'.

There is a price to pay for freedom from tyranny. Ultimately it is that our protection cannot be guaranteed by big government in every circumstance. Endlessly escalating arms-wars have only prevented violence of one kind in one instance in history - the Cold War, and that through guaranteed absolute annihilation of mankind - but it did not bring actual peace (see: Vietnam, Korea and all other proxy wars).

There is no real difference of type with the arms-race approach to reaching ultimate security - fairly enough associated with the political right - than there is through the Big Brother/Helicopter Parent approach fairly enough associated with the political left. In the end, those who would defend our right to live self-directed lives have to stand up to means of achieving security which preclude that goal.

I would rather have my own life - and yes, even my children's - be in a world that presents some residual risk than to live in a world where we fear every possibility however remote.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
There just isn't logic on the NRA side. (2.00 / 4)
Which is why they are not willing to debate anything. Debate requires defending arguments.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Logic is overrated (2.00 / 3)
Seriously, how many times has the public backed an idea that is illogical, and has a government enacted such an idea into law.  

[ Parent ]
Good logical arguments Chris. (2.00 / 5)
But I'm afraid logic isnt way up on the agenda for some of our fun loving friends at the NRA. My own facebook  experience has shown just how ugly and crazy some americans are. They talk of black-op squads coming for their guns, protecting themselves from the government. I've seen other self-serving arguements that more laws wont change anything so why bother.And a few who are just honest enough to say that they like their guns and massacres are not their problem.
 So I think its reduced to our collective saftey versus the individual right to be exempt from any responsibility of society in general(I call this that asshole plan).
 The problem the court seems to have created is when do we get to say you can't have that. Whats next a fully automatic M-16, rocket launcher, etc.  

I think we need to move the debate past all that. (2.00 / 4)
The Facebook-level discourse that the NRA is hoping to encourage plays into their hands. All the talking points are well-worn. We can break this down logically and just stick to that, and it will serve us better,

2nd Amendment: resistance to tyranny;

- historically true, tyrannical governments in history have disarmed the citizenry
- arms historically were relatively equal, anyone can make a sharp stick, blade or simple gun or bomb
- arms today are not equal, only the government can build and own certain kinds (nukes, F-16s, RPGs...).

IF the conversation will assume some limitations on citizens' arms THEN discuss each type of weapon and whether or not citizens' should be restricted regarding access to it.

Personal protection: stats and more stats.

- Are people with guns more or less likely to get shot? slice by demographic until your arm hurts.

- What risks do people actually face, along with relative likelihood?

- Stats regarding the efficacy of a firearm in self-protection. Sliced by demographic, weapon type, situation...

If we avoid all the cliche tiger-traps of emoting that surround this issue I think we can control a sane conversation. Just like any other conversation, those who insist on shouting have to stay out of the room. There are enough solid numbers to figure out and existing precedents to start from.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
All very good points (2.00 / 5)
Trouble is, the pro-gun forces have put their emotion-shouters forward at the megaphone and their volume tends to drown out the voices of reason from their side.  When you have a Wayne LaPierre as the public face of gun rights, there is little hope of getting a rational discourse going.

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done subjunctively.

[ Parent ]
And also trust (2.00 / 4)
Gun owners may agree with some of the remedies, but they openly say they'll never give in because they don't trust handing liberals a "victory" would push them to go further.

Right now, everything is a game of leverage. No one can give in because it looks like a loss or weakness. The media is partially to blame for that for turning every debate into a battle.

[ Parent ]
I think that depends on the gun owners. (2.00 / 3)
Avid hunters for the table generally tend to not be fans of guns like the Bushmaster.  Fire off one of those things in the forest, and every deer with a lick of sense will be long gone.  Hence no venison for anybody out that weekend and a waste of their access fees.

Then there's the pride of the deerhunter.  My husband and father-in-law are proud of their ability to get their buck in one shot.  The goal is to drop the animal where he stands, as that is the most humane way.  If you don't think you can do that, don't take the shot.  On top of that, deerhunters who hunt for food, not trophies, really have no use for the guys who just want to shoot it up.  That much lead ruins the meat.  If all you want to do is to make something disintegrate, go shoot skeet.  Just get the hell out of the woods.

We do not have any sort of handgun at our house.  My preference for a deterrent to burglars is my dog, who barks at everything that moves outside.  

"Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, vol. 3, no. 18
(-8.50, -7.23)  

[ Parent ]
Well there's where the NRA and gun lobby come in (2.00 / 1)
what if you convince the deer hunters "first they come for my Bushmaster, then for your rifle. And you know they will. Who do you trust? A fellow gun owner like me or a bunch of city hippies who don't eat meat?"

[ Parent ]
Each comment in this thread makes my point. (2.00 / 2)
Yes, the NRA shouters are out front.

- Don't try to outshout them. Nobody will be able to tell which of you are the idiot.

Reasonable gun owners are the ally.

- I am in Ohio at a friend's farm, weapons are plentiful and locked up. We can talk about all this stuff, these are the people we want to engage.

Slippery slopes

- Yes, extremist ideologues always talk about slippery slopes. Listen to Joe Scarborough rant about how much BS that is on this issue. Emulate.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]

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