To Turn the Tide Against the NRA, Leadership Needed at the Top

You know you are not going to be seeing the brightest bulbs on TV defending America's loose gun laws the weekend after the mass slaughter of children. Even the NRA had gone dark, taking down its Facebook and Twitter accounts and refusing to respond to reporters.

So after twenty children and six adults were killed by an AR-15 assault rifle in Newtown, Connecticut, who did Fox scrape off the bottom of the barrel to fly the guns-don't-kill-people flag?

Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Only a Gohmert would believe that the way to prevent mass killings is by giving assault weapons to more people.

Gohmert explained to Fox News anchor Chris Wallace this weekend that what we really needed to do is arm the principals. "Chris, I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said.

Michigan too is worried that there are not enough guns handy in our nation's schools. So the lame-duck legislature passed a law last week to encourage concealed carry in schools, day care centers, hospitals, churches, stadiums, and bars.

Are we really going to let the NRA and the knuckle-draggers define the terms of the debate in this country?

The U.S. Has 20 Times the Rate of Gun Murder

Although the NRA has worked hard to suppress data collection and independent research on gun violence, there are a number of facts relevant to this debate.

A 2011 study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined.

Does America have 20 times the level of mental illness? No, but we do have the highest gun ownership rate in the world - an average of 88 per 100 people and extremely loose gun laws that in some states allow ex-felons and the mentally ill to petition to be allowed to buy and carry weapons.

After 35 people were killed by an AR-15 assault rifle in 1996, Australia implemented an assault weapons ban and a mandatory buy back program for the weapons already on the street. Explicitly, the Australian government was worried about importing "the American disease" of gun violence.

The result? "In the 18 years before the intervention, Australia had 13 mass shootings. In the dozen years since, there has not been a single one," says David Hemenway of Harvard's Injury Control Research Center.

No More Hiding Behind the Second Amendment

In sane countries, military-style assault weapons and ammunition are reserved for the military. But not in the United States. The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushed for the sunset of the 1994 assault weapons ban and have fought hard to preempt any reasonable gun legislation at the state or municipal level, as CMD has documented. Wal-Mart sells AR-15 style weapons like hotcakes and chaired ALEC's task force dealing with guns when it passed the NRA's "Stand Your Ground" bill implicated in the Trayvon Martin killing.

From Virginia, to Tucson, to Newton, the death toll is rapidly mounting. The NRA may be lying low this week, but we can be sure they are gearing up behind closed doors.

Many are ready for the fight, MSNBC host Ed Shultz says there will be "no more hiding behind the Second Amendment." Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), both of whom have A-ratings from the NRA, are changing their tune: "The status quo is not acceptable anymore," said Warner. "Everything should be on the table," says Manchin.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA) said she will introduce legislation in January to ban the sale of assault weapons, and big clip ammunition, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets. But she admits that her proposal is riddled with 900 exceptions - and it applies only to future gun purchases.

Is this really the best we can do?

Mayors Tell Obama to Get Moving

Having attended the funerals of too many victims, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his growing coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns are not waiting around for any more. They are taking the airwaves by storm, backing a comprehensive assault weapons ban and advocating for a number of needed reforms at the federal, state and local level.

They know that policymakers have to move fast, before the horror of the latest tragedy fades. For now, the tide appears to be turning against the NRA. Support for reasonable gun control is at a 10 year high. A private equity firm was shamed into selling its holdings in the company which made the assault weapon used in the Newton massacre. Dick's Sporting Goods suspended the sale of high-powered rifles. California legislators are moving on background checks and ammunition. Even Governor Rick Snyder is seeing the light, vetoing Michigan's concealed carry expansion yesterday.

But the mayors know that leadership is needed from the top. 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during Obama's second term. The president has pandered to the NRA lobby in the past. They are demanding a robust White House proposal on guns.

You can access the Mayors' "Demand a Plan" petition to the White House and Congress here and follow the discussion at #DemandAPlan.

PDF icon UCR Homicides by Weapon.pdf48.63 KB
Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.


Your Switzerland argument does not hold water. Switzerland does not have a standing army, instead opting for a peoples' militia for its national defense. The vast majority of men between the ages of 20 and 30 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training. The personal weapons of the militia are kept at home as part of their military obligations. AND... only 2,000 specialist militia members (who protect airports and other sites of particular sensitivity) are permitted to keep their military-issued ammunition at home. The rest of the militia get their ammunition from their military armory in the event of an emergency. Switzerland argument: FAIL.

Gohmert says, "I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out." Except she wasn't IN her office when the shooter attacked. She was in the library. Gohmert argument FAIL.

How does the argument fail? If she had had a gun with her no matter where she and the students were, she could have shot the guy. pure and simple.

Gohmert didn't say he wished she had a gun on her person. He said he wished she had a gun LOCKED UP IN HER OFFICE.

The US may lead the world in gun murders, but is solidly middle of the pack when you compare homicides. Unless you only care about gun murders or naively believe that these murders would not have happened in the absence of guns. As for the AR-15, you are more likely to be killed by someone's fists than by any type of rifle, of which the AR-15 murders are a subset of rifle murders. If you're going to go after guns, why not hand guns first since those are easily the biggest source of gun murders. But then you would have to come to terms with the fact that the states which have some of the strongest anti-handgun laws are among the states with the highest numbers of handgun deaths. This is FBI data that is freely available at the cost of a google search. I'm not going to do your homework for you. You go look it up yourselves. That being said, I suspect you are too lazy to do that just like most Democrats who are too lazy to do something like, oh say, go get a job.

<blockquote>I'm not going to do your homework for you. You go look it up yourselves."</blockquote> If you want to challenge something someone is saying, and you have specific evidence to cite, it's on you cite your source. You said "FBI data," so you owe it to us to link to an FBI web page that backs your claims. Unless, of course, you can't, because you're just another petulant gun-nut do-some-research troll.

The original commenter is trafficking in deception, otherwise known as lies, damned lies, and statistics. The FBI does not publish crime data by model of rifle, and so Mr. or Ms. NRA Spin is probably just parroting what someone else said and never looked it up. The FBI's Uniform Crime Report does track homicides by weapon, and that data conclusively demonstrates that an American is more likely to be murdered with a gun than with any other weapon, including fists. I've uploaded a PDF of that table from the UCR as an attachment to this article, so you can see the numbers yourself. What the 2011 report (the most recent year with complete data) shows is that 8,583 people in the U.S. were murdered with a firearm, out of the 12,664 homicides that year, which is fully 2/3 (and precisely 67.77%) of all homicides. What the deceiving commenter references without bothering to give you the benefit of the full data on (which is actually quite brief, literally a few lines on a single page) is that of those 8,583 homicides by gun, 323 were from rifles, and he or she selectively omits that 6,220 were from handguns and the remainder were from other types of guns, like shotguns. Assault-style weapons can be both long guns and hand guns and models of both types can be used with different quantities of ammunition clips. It is the case that 728 people were murdered in 2011 by bare hands including pushing people, but that's a far cry from the 8,583 from guns. Selectively comparing rifles to fists without revealing total homicides by guns is deceptive stuff.

...for some time now, on just how very well the NRA has fulfilled its function as a PR front and lightning rod for the gun manufacturers. Almost all of the discourse about gun violence has centered on NRA and not on the manufacturers, who after all are the ones shoving these guns down everyone's throats. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems to me to include PR Watch. But that may be changing: (With apologies for the opening commercial and Rachel's meandering intro.)

You're right. The NRA is drawing fire while the gun makers are avoiding the headlines, although we have written about them too but not as much. Thank you for the constructive criticism! Lisa

"As for the AR-15, you are more likely to be killed by someone's fists than by any type of rifle..." So, if Adam Lanza hadn't had a Bushmaster 223 at his disposal, he would have PUNCHED in the door at Sandy Hook Elementary, and then PUNCHED 20 children and 6 adults to death? After using his fists to kill his mother in her sleep, of course. Interesting.