This is a turbulent time in America. The nation is warily emerging from a pandemic, only to face spiking crime, rampant inflation, shortages of labor and goods and highly publicized acts of violence.
But the United States was born out of turbulent times. Its form of government and Constitution were created by those who understood the temptations and dangers arising from moments of national crisis. They knew opportunists exploit situations when emotions are running high and people are seeking reassurance.
As we look for solutions, it is more important than ever to remember who we are. The worst thing we could do would be to abandon the principles and the essential freedoms we alone in the world enjoy in responding to the problems that confront us.
Our form of government, those ideals and our essential freedoms are made for moments exactly like this. They are not the problem. They are our roadmap to solutions.
When you hear that we should pack the Supreme Court, that we should censor speech and expression, that we should eliminate the Senate filibuster (or reconfigure the Senate itself), that we should ignore our own borders, or that we should scorn our laws and vilify our cops, you know we face a tipping point.
The same is true when people claim America can no longer afford to stand by the Second Amendment.
These are not the ideas of people honestly seeking solutions to our national problems. They are the ideas of people who want to undo the nation as we know it.
The NRA, America’s law-abiding gun owners, and their supporters in government and elsewhere have come under withering attack in the aftermath of high-profile mass attacks committed by deranged criminals.
Some have called us terrorists or murderers. In Congress itself, an anti-gun U.S. representative called a U.S. senator a “baby killer” in a public forum for simply standing up for our right to keep and bear arms.
The NRA is the largest proponent of actual gun-safety measures in America.
Again, these are not the voices of people acting in good faith. They are the voices of people who want to shift blame, usually from policies they themselves promote or support to policies supported by those they consider their political enemies.
America’s gun owners and the men and women of the NRA are no different than anyone else when it comes to mourning the loss of innocent life. We have families and children of our own. All of us want to send our kids off to school with peace of mind.
What does make us different is understanding the dynamics of these terrible situations, while also seeing through the “solutions” gun-control advocates cynically pull off the shelf in response, no matter how unresponsive those measures are to what actually happened or how useless they would be in practice.
Most of all, we understand that the off-the-shelf gun-control “solutions” proposed in the wake of these events are not meant to address the actual problems, but designed to advance a pre-existing agenda while emotions are still raw and the demand to “do something” (anything) is high.
Yet the solutions typically ignore the actual facts of the events that supposedly justify them or would be useless in preventing the next one.
Joe Biden demonstrated all of the above tendencies of cynical gun-control opportunism in his own address to the nation following the Uvalde attack.
He pointed the finger at those who support the Second Amendment as the cause of the problem. “As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” he scolded. Later, he pivoted to blaming heavily regulated, lawfully operated businesses: “[T]he gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons which make them the most and largest profit,” he said. “For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry.”
Biden then reverted to the same tired gun-control agenda that he was promoting before he was ever elected president, falsely suggesting the proposals would somehow do what they have failed to do in places where they are already the law. This included an “assault weapon” ban and empowering courts to hold law-abiding firearm businesses accountable for third-party crimes.
Yet New York, the site of a recent incident Biden invoked to justify his proposals, enacted its assault weapons ban in 2013, supposedly to “stop” mass shootings. And it enacted vicarious liability for the gun industry last year, supposedly to “stop” firearm-related crime generally.
But if guns and gun owners aren’t to blame, what is to be done?
Plenty, and the NRA has been supporting effective interventions for years, knowing full well we will never get credit for it from anti-gunners in the media, academia, politics, entertainment or other elite opinion-makers. Because it’s not about getting credit for us. It’s about what’s right.
We support measures to make schools safer for students and teachers. Politicians and media figures mock the idea of safe school engineering and security from their own offices within buildings designed to thwart aggressive intruders and staffed with armed guards. It’s more than a little hypocritical to deny our children the same safety measures used to protect our legislatures, courts and executive residences.
We support devoting more resources to fixing America’s broken mental-health system and ensuring those in distress get treatment and services—and isolation from doing harm, where necessary—when they need it, before things escalate.
Schools need adequate resources for guidance counselors and other mental-health professionals to help treat potentially dangerous individuals, before they’re able to hurt anyone.
And, our national approach to mental-health treatment needs to be overhauled. While there were real problems with our public mental-health institutions, simply closing them and forcing many with serious mental-health problems into a life of homelessness without treatment was not the answer.
Figures from the Treatment Advocacy Center illustrate the problem. Over the last 60 years, the number of beds available at psychiatric hospitals in America has dropped by 96%. In 1955, there were an estimated 340 beds per 100,000 people with mental-health illnesses. In 2016, that number fell to 11.7 beds per 100,000 people.
We can, and must, do more to help our most-vulnerable citizens. Condemning them to a life without treatment in tent cities across America’s metropolitan areas is unacceptable.
We support vigorous enforcement of existing laws against those who misuse firearms or illegally provide them to known criminals or threats, while also supporting frontline law-enforcement officers with the backing and resources they need to succeed.
Meanwhile, many of the same people pointing fingers at the NRA advocate “criminal-justice reform” that leaves dangerous criminals on the streets, or they seek to discredit and defund the police.
As I detailed in my column last month, a study in our nation’s capital recently found that 60 to 70% of all firearm crime in the city is committed by only 200-500 individuals. But, rather than creating a focused deterrence policy that attempted to limit the ability of the criminals to commit further crimes, the district decided to employ life coaches for these violent criminals.
There are existing solutions to these crime problems. During the last crime spike in the 1990s, policies were put in place to focus on arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating the most-violent offenders. And they worked. From 1993 to 2014, our national homicide rate fell by more than half. Thanks to NRA-supported programs like Project Exile and Project Safe Neighborhoods, government resources were focused on putting violent criminals behind bars, not disarming the law-abiding. We can, and should, take the same proven approach to the current surge in violent crime.
We support responsible firearm handling and storage, including through education provided by our sprawling network of NRA-certified trainers. Over 100,000 NRA-certified instructors train more than 1 million law-abiding gun owners every year.
Because of this training and other firearms-education programs, more than 1 million gun owners are able to safely and successfully defend themselves every year, most without ever firing a single shot. The simple truth is that the NRA is the largest proponent of actual gun-safety measures in America. And that’s something that all NRA members should be proud of, even though these contributions will never be recognized by our anti-gun mainstream.
And, yes, we unapologetically and proudly support the right of the people to keep and bear arms; the ultimate safeguard when all other security precautions fail. This includes properly trained and equipped personnel in schools.
What we do not, and will not, support is any attempt to attack the fundamental right of all law-abiding Americans to protect themselves and their families.
Law-abiding gun owners and businesses are not to blame for the acts of remorseless criminals, and the NRA will oppose any attempt to shift the blame to our members or to the lawful industries that support them.