Sunday May 12, 2013

If someone is murdered in the United States, the odds are strongly in favor of a gun as the weapon of choice. This is not surprising as firearms are designed to kill quickly and efficiently, as opposed to knives, poison or baseball bats. Nearly 75 percent of all homicides are committed by a firearm, according to a report released last week by the U.S. Justice Department, a percentage that has been relatively consistent for decades. In essence, guns kill.

The same report revealed that firearms-related homicides declined 39 percent between 1993 and 2011, good news tempered by the reality that the death rate far exceeds that of other civilized nations that have gotten a handle on guns. That decline is of no consolation to the families of those killed by guns, like the families of the 20 children and six adults slaughtered at Newtown still wondering why even that atrocity can’t spur action in Washington while sequester-caused airport inconveniences can spur action.

The National Rifle Association’s 2013 National Gun Owner’s Action Survey now showing up in mailboxes in Pittsfield and around Berkshire County offers insight into the strategy employed to prevent the gun reform measures supported by a majority of Americans. The survey is in essence a rabble-rousing fund-raising letter and as such employs the hyperbole consistent with the type of mailing.


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"Gun-ban politicians across America are waging open war on our Second Amendment rights," warns the letter, signed by NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre, but there is no mention of the context of the current fight against gun violence, specifically those periodic bloody massacres that tend to upset people.

The 12 questions on the survey are worded to obtain the desired response, as is typical of a mailing that is not designed to obtain objective information but to push a cause. "Do you oppose the proposed United Nations gun ban treaty that would give international bureaucrats the power to dictate firearms policy here in the United States?" asks Question 5. That should get a 100 percent Yes response. It is safe to say that there is no one in the NRA’s Fairfax, Virginia headquarters who actually believes that a treaty can give the U.N. the power to dictate gun policy in the U.S. or anywhere else. But the mere suggestion will alarm the flock, which is the intent of the question.

The U.N. is the world’s most hapless and ineffectual organization. It passes resolutions that nations ignore and sends "peacekeepers" to watch the slaughter of innocents. Yet it is easily demagogued as an all-powerful monolith that plans to tax Americans (it can’t) or take away their guns (it can’t) by cynical organizations like the NRA seeking to scare votes and money out of the gullible.

Which brings us to Question 12: "Will you help fight for your freedom by joining NRA today?" The survey ends with a membership plea and offers discounts on one- two- and three-year terms. This is how the NRA generates the funds necessary to buy congressmen and campaign against those who support gun reform. Ultimately, this flood of money leads to abominations like the April Senate vote in which even simple background checks designed to weed out the occasional criminal and terrorist couldn’t get past a threatened Republican filibuster.

Finally, join the NRA today and receive a bonus gift -- "NRA’s razor-sharp, Rosewood Handle Pocketknife." No free gun?