By its words, the National Rifle Association vows to safeguard the rights of gun owners. But by its actions, the NRA is demonstrating that it has no interest in being part of a reasoned debate on how to reduce gun violence.
Instead of working in good faith with President Barack Obama and Congress on legislation, it prefers to lob bombs from the sidelines. It would rather run a despicable ad attacking the president.
The ad bashes Obama for not supporting armed guards in schools when his two daughters have security staff and Secret Service protection at their private school in Washington, D.C. "Are the president's kids more important than yours?" the narrator asks. "Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security."
The NRA isn't backing down. Wednesday, it released a new video repeating the attack on Obama and also going after its critics in the media. It claims to have added 250,000 members in the month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, bringing the total to 4.25 million. Surely, a good number don't agree with what their leaders are doing. NRA members should speak out now, especially since the leadership is counting on its minions in Congress to do its bidding and block the president's plan.
While his $500 million strategy is the most comprehensive gun violence plan in two decades, it is no extremist agenda. There are an estimated 270 million to 310 million privately held guns in America. This is a nation that will continue to recognize the rights of law-abiding gun owners hunters, homeowners, target shooters and others.
Obama called Wednesday for reviving the ban on military-style assault weapons; limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds; and requiring universal background checks for gun buyers, including sales at trade shows and online. He also proposed putting 1,000 police officers and counselors in schools and training more mental health workers to treat troubled young people. He also signed 23 executive orders with smaller steps.
California already has many of those laws, but they are less effective because other states don't. To take one example, California requires buyers to undergo background checks to buy any firearm at gun shows. But buyers can just drive to gun shows in Nevada to avoid that requirement.
That's why nationwide laws could make a worthwhile difference, even though, as Obama acknowledged, no law is ever going to prevent every senseless shooting.
These proposals come out of a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden, which met with representatives of more than 200 groups. One of them was the NRA, which summarily said Biden wasn't interested in protecting children, but in attacking the Second Amendment.
By dismissing common-sense ideas out of hand, the NRA may be serving the interests of certain gun manufacturers, but not its overall membership. It is certainly not serving the country.
Partly because of the NRA's refusal to engage in honest debate, Obama faces a tough road getting his proposals through Congress. He was absolutely right when he said, "This will not happen unless the American people demand it."