If we as a civil society outlaw hand grenades and propelled explosives because their design is to harm a lot of people quickly, then why can’t we do the same for automatic weapons and large clips of bullets? They too are weapons designed only for the killing of people quickly and efficiently and like hand grenades they have nothing to do with hunting. Yet, somehow it’s different and the National Rifle Association (NRA) is holding firm in not putting gun controls of any kind on the table of options to avoid another Newtown, Connecticut massacre. The NRA claims in its defense that it’s a slippery slope from a society banning military weapons to wanting to take away hunting rifles and second amendment rights. This is the central myth that fuels NRA membership.
To any and all NRA members that may be reading this, I would like to ask if they know of any hunting group that experienced a political attack on their rights when the Federal Assualt Weapons Ban was in effect from 1994 to September 2004. Do you know of any Alaskan that was unable to protect family and property because of not having an assault weapon during this 10 year time period? The answer is no. And why? Because there was no slippery slope then and nor is there one now. Civil societies are capable of drawing the line at military weaponry.
The next NRA myth that needs busting is that the NRA leadership fairly represents the desires of its membership. A poll conducted by the coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, showed that 69 percent of self-identified NRA members favor closing the gun show loophole which allows persons to purchase assault weapons without a background check. The release of this poll by Republican pollster Frank Luntz has the NRA leadership fuming. Not only is the NRA out of step with its membership but also with gun owners in general. A recent survey by the Washington Post showed that only 24 percent of gun owners are NRA members and when you ask gun owners in general about banning the sale of magazines with more than 10 bullets or requiring a 5 day waiting period, a significant majority say ‘yes, please do so’.
By blaming gun violence in our society on everything except guns (media, school administrators posting ‘gun-free’ zones, video games, mental health screening) not only is the NRA out of step with gun owners but they appear to be taking themselves out of the current national debate. Several pro-gun lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) Sen. Joe signaled they would support measures like an assault weapons ban. Even prominent Republican Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) favor a re-evaluation of the nation’s gun policies. Additionally President Obama has appointed Vice-President Joe Biden to lead an interagency effort for developing a multifaceted approach to preventing mass shootings like the one in Newtown. All these developments suggest that the Sandy Hook massacre is serving as that all important tipping point where the NRA is no longer the sole determinant of gun control policy.
The other type of tipping point action that is merited in light of the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook is to ask, “What are we, as a community, doing to promote safe and reasonable use of guns?” Is permitting an indoor gun range aimed at seeking commercial benefit from the shooting of machine guns the best direction for Juneau? Will there be mental health screenings of customers? Do we risk planting the thrill of automatic weapons into the wrong hands?
In explaining the commercial attraction of the indoor gun range, Sloane Swendsen, part-owner, notes, “Shooting machine guns is a pastime spreading across the U.S.”
Why is promoting more attraction to machine guns not a threat to public safety, particularly when you consider that Alaska has one of the lowest record among the 50 states for mental health screenings in association with gun purchase background checks. Why not make permit approval contingent upon machine gun restrictions?
These types of questions emerge when we look to apply the Sandy Hook tipping point locally. For those inclined to raise such questions, the permit was approved by the Planning Commission and will only be heard by the Assembly if an appeal is submitted by Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2013.
• Troll, a writer, resides in a hunting household with 10 guns in her home.