To the Editor:
I was glad to see the editorial in last week’s Islander supporting a “dispassionate,” “scientific” and “apolitical” study of gun violence in America. I agree, we cannot fully identify the causes or adequately attempt a cure of this deadly and debilitating epidemic without the facts.
We do not have the facts because the National Rifle Association and its congressional enablers, probably with some insight, fear accurate data might indicate a need for better gun control. It prefers to wrap itself in the Constitution and the American flag, while dishonoring what the one says and the other represents. This was not always the case.
After the Civil War, data was collected concerning the poor marksmanship and inadequate weapons of Union soldiers. The NRA was founded to improve the marksmanship of American soldiers, through better training and better weapons. The NRA’s original mission was well within the original intent of the Second Amendment, which puts the need for “a well regulated Militia” and “the security of a free State” before the right of “the People to keep and bear Arms.”
Today, the NRA is a big business whose mission is to promote the selling of as many guns and as many types of guns to as many people as they can with as little government regulation as it can get away with. It claims a right to do this by focusing on the last phrase of the Second Amendment only, that gun ownership “shall not be infringed.” To get away with this, it uses big-money campaigns to coerce and intimidate legislators and candidates as well as to frighten and rile up voters.
Worse yet, in its opposition to sensible and constitutional gun safety legislation, the NRA portrays the U.S. government as a tyrant in the model of King George, proclaiming itself a true patriot in the model of our Revolutionary ancestors. It has emboldened its followers to make gun control an issue worthy of another Civil War. This is a far cry from gun ownership in service of securing a free state. This is gun ownership run amok. The cry of “for God and country” in the mouth of the modern NRA is subversive blasphemy.
Even the NRA and its most ardent supporters in government seem to recognize the need to limit access to some weaponry as constitutional. The question of what constitutes legitimate “infringement” is open to debate. We cannot have that debate without the facts.
While there are gun extremists (for whom the NRA is too liberal and who have undertaken campaigns of public intimidation at polling places and personal threats on social media) there is rising evidence that the majority of gun owners support carefully written legislation, based on reliable data, to promote gun safety.
Gun owners know firsthand the dangers and responsibilities of gun ownership. Many have the experience and expertise to speak knowledgeably, and I hope they will continue to speak up. We should not let their voices be drowned out in the passions of the moment or by the extremists and vested interests among us.
The editorial ends with the question, “Who in the present Congress will support a dispassionate study of gun violence?”
As of this writing, of Maine’s members of Congress, Sen. Collins, Sen. King and Rep. Pingree all have clearly spoken up in support of seriously studying and preventing gun violence. Only our own Rep. Bruce Poliquin here in Maine’s 2nd District has been evasive and recalcitrant. Poliquin has largely evaded any clear public stance, but his voting record in support of NRA positions speaks for itself. Poliquin is among the top 10 recipients of NRA contributions in the House of Representatives — a dubious distinction which may speak to the financial price of selling the NRA hard-line here in Maine while burying its true cost.