Erbe: NRA shoots down reasoned gun control debate
GalleriesCartoonists take aim at gun control
An organization I utterly oppose has bestowed upon me an honor of the highest order. The National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action has put me on its enemies list, which it labels "National Organizations With Anti-Gun Policies." The roster includes such organizations as the AARP, the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Catholic Conference (a likely reference to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops).
Much farther down -- after a long list of movie stars and celebrities -- comes a subtitle that reads "Anti-Gun Journalists." My name is listed among nearly 40 journalists that editorialize in favor of gun control laws. This is almost as good as a Pulitzer, but not quite.
All told, the NRA lists more than 500 entries.
The list was posted in September, but I only found out about it recently when a reporter from Media Matters for America, a media watchdog group, called for an interview.
The gun control debate is now stuck between the White House and Congress, and coming ever closer to bleeding to death. President Barack Obama wants legislation debated and passed now. Republican leaders want to delay until the horror of the Dec. 14 school massacre in Newtown, Conn., recedes.
Congress should act -- now. Last month, Mayors Against Illegal Guns released a report calling for tougher regulation. "Access Denied" -- presented by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the group's co-chair and its largest funder -- states that "for the past decade or so: the federal government has conducted almost no scientific research on how criminals get and misuse guns, or what policies are effective at stopping them; law enforcement has been prohibited from sharing analyses of crime gun trace data with policymakers and the press; and military leaders and doctors have been barred from talking about gun safety to people under their command or care. All of this, despite the fact that Americans murder each other with guns at nearly 20 times the rate of residents of other high-income countries." Congress isn't keeping this critical data from the public by itself. Its NRA-dependent members are following the call of the gun lobby. The NRA is helping them craft the delay. Why? As I have stated before, the NRA has degenerated from civil rights organization to nothing more than a promoter of gun sales for gun manufacturers. Look behind each piece of legislation it sponsors or supports, and its background theme is "let's sell more guns." Why on earth would the NRA otherwise have come up with its ridiculous solution to the Newtown massacre? It proposed having an armed security officer at each school in America as the best way to stop school shootings.
Let's put aside, for the moment, the fact that public schools are woefully underfunded and that having an armed guard at each one would be unaffordable for most. The proposal was designed to sell hundreds of thousands more weapons to arm these guards.
Since the shooting, there has been wide support in Newtown for adding the officers to elementary schools since the shooting, the Washington Post has reported. Just last week, I'm sorry to report, the Newtown school board followed the NRA's lead.
Members voted unanimously to request an armed guard for each of the district's four elementary schools.
The only remaining barrier appears to be financial: School resource officers, or SROs, are police officers, and their salaries come out of the police budget. City officials need to approve the school board's request before police appear in schools.
Financial barricades may bring down that effort. But if school board members had had data showing that more guns are not the answer, they might have voted otherwise.
The NRA is responsible for distorting the debate over gun control -- and so are members of Congress who give blanket support to the organization.
Bonnie Erbe, host of PBS' "To the Contrary," writes this weekly column for Scripps Howard News Service.