Last week's outbreak of gun violence put severe dents into the National Rifle Association's already weak guns-for-all philosophy. The NRA also reached such new lows in callousness it offended some supporters.
Alton Sterling, shot to death after being pinned to the ground by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, shot to death by a police officer at a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, were both licensed gun owners. The fact they were armed or could have been armed surely heightened the fears of police officers, with Mr. Castile shot to death while trying to retrieve his identification. It is possible, of not likely, that both men would be alive today had they not been carrying guns or gun licenses.
The NRA mantra "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun," first uttered by National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre following the gun massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut four years ago, was always indefensible outside the context of the untamed Wild West of the 1800s. Put in the context of Dallas last week, five "good guys" — Dallas police officers assuring the safety of a demonstration against gun violence — were slaughtered by a "bad guy" who gunned them down in the street. That catchphrase should be retired.
The NRA, perhaps embittered by having to defend its indefensible policies on a regular basis, reacted in uniquely shameful fashion to last week's incidents. It did not mention Mr. Castile by name in its statement, although it might have ringingly defended his right to bear arms, and glided over the deaths of the Dallas officers before repeating its stock pablum about gun rights.
Critics, many of them gun owners, took to social media in response. "Your silence is causing NRA members such as myself to question/wonder what exactly you do or don't stand for," wrote Bruce Johnson on the NRA's Facebook page. "Your lack of message concerning the Castile case disappoints me and makes me question my membership," wrote Marco Gallologic on the NRA page.
Responsible gun owners such as hunters and collectors must lend their voices to the cause of ending gun violence in the U.S. if real progress is to be made. Many states, including Massachusetts, are doing their part (see editorial below), but a national effort out of Washington is critical. An NRA that has bought off and/or intimidated much of Congress has at this point reduced itself to being nothing more than an advocate for and protector of those who use guns to darken our streets with the blood of innocent victims.