NRA isn’t the voice of gun own­ers

Con­gress should rec­og­nize this, work to pre­vent fur­ther slaugh­ters, says Michael Fore­man

The Dallas Morning News - - Viewpoints - Michael Fore­man is an at­tor­ney in Rich­mond, Texas. He wrote this col­umn for The Dal­las Morn­ing News. Email: michaelfore­manjd@gmail.com

Dear Con­gress, I own mul­ti­ple shot­guns, hand­guns and ri­fles, in­clud­ing an AR-15. Un­for­tu­nately, when the gun-con­trol de­bate is reignited by an­other mass shoot­ing, my voice is of­ten un­heard. Maybe my mes­sage is drowned out by the NRA’S con­tin­ued si­lence. Per­haps I’m ig­nored be­cause I don’t fall within a pre-de­fined box, al­low­ing you to la­bel me an out­lier. Ei­ther way, in the wake of yet an­other mass shoot­ing by a U.S. cit­i­zen, please do not al­low my plea to fall on deaf ears. So I ask that you do the fol­low­ing:

Put me on a regis­tra­tion list or ban my AR-15. Force me to wait three days be­fore I pick up the next gun I buy, or con­duct a more thor­ough back­ground check. Tell me I can’t own a 20-round clip for my AR-15. I don’t care what you do. But please do some­thing.

In the com­ing weeks, some peo­ple will call for tougher gun laws, while oth­ers will re­main silent, know­ing that their Sec­ond Amend­ment ar­gu­ment sim­ply does not hold water af­ter yet an­other mas­sacre. And while so­ci­ety is con­sumed with the gun-con­trol de­bate, his­tory in­di­cates that our dis­cus­sions are fu­tile.

Af­ter a gun­man slaugh­tered 20 first-graders and six staff mem­bers in their school, af­ter an Amer­i­can mur­dered 49 peo­ple be­cause of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and af­ter 32 stu­dents and pro­fes­sors were killed on a col­lege cam­pus, you passed no leg­is­la­tion. In­stead, you chose to take to Twit­ter to ex­press po­ten­tially pre­ventable con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of the most re­cent group of slain in­di­vid­u­als.

Now, I choose to be­lieve your in­ac­tion is not be­cause you are ter­ri­ble peo­ple. I be­lieve U.S. ci­ti­zens have the abil­ity to elect com­pe­tent and kind in­di­vid­u­als. Rather, I think your in­ac­tion is caused by two in­ter­re­lated is­sues.

First, you ac­cept the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion as the voice of gun own­ers. Lis­ten­ing solely to this out­spo­ken or­ga­ni­za­tion’s rhetoric is to ig­nore the ma­jor­ity of us. In fact, only about 6 per­cent of gun own­ers are mem­bers of the NRA. If you con­sider that NRA an­nual dues are only $40, it is hard to imag­ine this lack of sup­port is due to fi­nan­cial lim­i­ta­tions. It seems much more likely that 94 per­cent of gun own­ers are like me.

We en­joy ex­er­cis­ing our Sec­ond Amend­ment rights, but we also rec­og­nize that the right to bear arms can­not be­come an ab­so­lute right. We know that there are times when an in­di­vid­ual must trade his or her rights to en­sure ev­ery­one’s se­cu­rity. As a Sec­ond Amend­ment ad­vo­cate, I ask that you lis­ten to the ma­jor­ity of us, rather than be in­flu­enced by the money or power wielded by 6 per­cent of gun own­ers.

The sec­ond rea­son for your in­ac­tion seems to be your mem­ory. You for­get that most gun own­ers agree with manda­tory wait­ing pe­ri­ods. And why do you strug­gle to pass uni­ver­sal back­ground checks, con­sid­er­ing most gun own­ers sup­port them, in­clud­ing 74 per­cent of NRA mem­bers? Is there an­other ex­pla­na­tion for your re­fusal to pass a ban on vi­o­lent felons own­ing weapons? Es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the ma­jor­ity of us agree that some peo­ple just shouldn’t be al­lowed to own guns.

Of course, we don’t agree on all the is­sues. Some re­stric­tions and laws can be po­lar­iz­ing. For ex­am­ple, some gun-con­trol ac­tivists call for the regis­tra­tion of all guns. Some call for a ban on high-ca­pac­ity, semi-au­to­matic weapons. It would be easy for me to op­pose th­ese ideas. On the one hand, I know how I use my semi-au­to­matic ri­fle. I know that I will use my AR-15 when a friend or neigh­bor needs help hunt­ing the hogs that cause an es­ti­mated $52 mil­lion a year in dam­age in Texas. On the one hand, I like be­ing able to help my neigh­bors pro­tect their liveli­hood. I also know my AR-15 will never be used for a mass shoot­ing.

But Con­gress, if you think a ban on AR15s might re­duce mass shoot­ings, tell me where to drop mine off. If reg­is­ter­ing all guns means there is one less mass shoot­ing, I’ ll be the first in line.

Sure, there may be de­bate about which laws ap­pro­pri­ately strike the bal­ance between in­di­vid­ual lib­er­ties and the safety of civil­ians, but the time for dis­cus­sion has long passed. It is time for you to en­act laws that re­quire manda­tory wait­ing pe­ri­ods and uni­ver­sal back­ground checks. If you need to ban all semi-au­to­matic, high-ca­pac­ity guns, then draft the bill.

As a gun owner, I am call­ing on you to do some­thing. My lim­ited happiness is not worth the life­time of sad­ness ex­pe­ri­enced by the friends and fam­i­lies of the vic­tims of Las Ve­gas, Pulse night­club, Vir­ginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino and any other mass shoot­ing.

Chris Van Es/newsart.com

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