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The NRA Has a Real Opportunity to Lead on Gun Control

March 26, 2018

As noted in earlier posts, until the mid 1970s the NRA supported the use of guns in hunting and target sports like skeet shooting. Before then, they supported the government’s efforts to restrict public access to military grade weapons: first in 1934 when mobsters had machine guns and three decades later when Black militants decided to patrol their neighborhoods outfitted like guerrilla fighters in Central America. Once the 2nd Amendment fanatics took control of the organization, though, the NRA insisted that any American should possess ANY weapon they wanted. The fanatics’ “slippery slope” reasoning took hold and before long their organization was downgrading the ratings for politicians who failed to support the “right” for gun owners to purchase bullets that penetrate armor, the requirement that gun owners have locks for their weapons, and, in the most recent outlandish proposal, to own silencers.

The transcript of ABC affiliate KWBE’s radio report made me think that the NRA’s membership is missing a golden opportunity. The report indicates that over the past several years the NRA has made substantial donations to schools to support marksmanship programs and JROTC:

From 2010 through 2016, the charitable subsidiary to the pro-gun group gave $7.3 million in grants to more than 500 schools, school clubs and school districts to fund youth clubs and provide equipment for varsity competitive shooting teams…

Nearly half of the more than 700 NRA grants to schools went through JROTC programs across the country.

U.S. Army Cadet Command, which oversees the JROTC programs, did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

From my perspective as a former school principal and superintendent, I do not see this as a bad thing. As one of the administrators who was quoted in the report indicated, target shooting is an expensive sport and funds for extra-curricular activities are scarce. Moreover, if the control of the club’s “content” is overseen by an educational institution it can ensure that students are using their weapons respectfully. It strikes me as far more worthwhile for students to compete in target shooting outdoors or in a controlled shooting range than to have them playing video games where their shots are killing sentient beings. It is naive of schools to believe that students who are down to school-sponsored shooting clubs might not join, say, alt-right shooting clubs if the schools did not offer them.

I don’t own a gun, but I was enrolled in ROTC as an undergraduate and in that program I learned how to assemble and clean a military weapon, one whose name I cannot recall but one that was NOT an automatic weapon. As part of the course we were required to go to a shooting range and achieve a minimum level of marksmanship, an experience that makes me understand the lure of shooting at targets as a recreational activity. Living in rural areas for much os my career, I also came to appreciate the hunting culture, skeet shooting, and, in the words of John Prine, “shooting empty pop bottles”.

While I am not a fan of the NRA under its current leadership, I know that the current mentality of the NRA is the result of democratic votes within the organization. Before the current fanatical wing of the NRA took control, the leadership advocated gun safety, recreational use of weapons, and the camaraderie of gun owners who engage in sports like skeet shooting and hunting. I have to believe that the majority of NRA members are not supportive of the notion that anyone should be able to buy or possess any weapon at all times. If those members could take back the organization, make the argument for school-based training for weapons in extra-curricular activities sponsored by the NRA, they could have a positive influence on legislators. I don’t know enough about guns to know which ones meet the definition of “assault weapons”, but I do know that the kinds of guns used in the recent massacres were specifically designed to kill human beings and I believe that any weapon designed for that purpose should be severely restricted. And I have enough faith in the rank-and-file gun owners to believe that they could develop a means of defining what those weapons are and MAYBE begin rating their legislators on their willingness to restrict their circulation in the future and to set “red flags” that allow allow law enforcement officials to confiscate them from individuals who are likely to use them to harm others.

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