This column appeared as an op/ed in the Northern Virginia Daily.
In February, the Northern Virginia Daily quoted Todd Gilbert — who misrepresents my district in the House of Delegates — complaining that “the only time they ever blame a crime on the instrument and not the perpetrator is when a gun is involved.”
In this statement, Mr. Gilbert shows us the bad faith that so regularly prevents sensible discussion of gun policy in Virginia and in the nation as a whole.
Does Mr. Gilbert really believe there is no connection between the fact that the United States has a murder rate seven times higher than other high-income nations and the fact that only the U.S. has more guns in citizens’ hands than it has people?
And then there’s the issue of the kinds of guns.
I expect that Mr. Gilbert, who, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, is one of the General Assembly’s top recipients of NRA support, knows full well that mass shootings in the U.S. occur 11 times more often than in any other country. And that he knows full well how this grisly picture is connected with the fact that in the U.S., citizens are allowed to buy weapons that can kill dozens of people in seconds.
Like the shooter in Las Vegas who killed 58 people attending a concert. Like the shooter in Parkland, Florida, who killed 17 people in a high school.
Bad faith and hypocrisy pervade what we hear from the NRA and its minions like Mr. Gilbert. We hear again and again from the NRA about American liberties. But when a bill came up in the House of Delegates recently to make available a specialty license plate for Virginians who are concerned about gun violence (one already exists for the NRA), Mr. Gilbert did not think liberty should extend that far.
All that was involved was approving a plate that would read STOP GUN VIOLENCE. You would think Mr. Gilbert would be happy to add such a specialty plate to the 250 or so specialty plates now available. After all, he was quoted in that Northern Virginia Daily article saying, “I am opposed to violence in all forms.”
Really, what else but bad faith can explain so many of the positions taken by the politicians doing the NRA’s bidding? Why would they oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers, when nearly 100% of the public, even 97% of gun owners, support such checks, a recent Quinnipiac University poll shows.
Why else would these politicians oppose efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people on the terrorism no-fly list? Why else would our president, who received more money from the NRA than any presidential candidate in history, issue an executive order to make it easier for people with mental health problems to buy even assault weapons? Why else would the NRA and the politicians it buys oppose taking guns away from domestic abusers?
The answer to these questions, I believe, is that the NRA can best achieve its purpose, which many knowledgeable observers say is to enrich the gun industry, by stoking the fears of law-abiding gun owners.
The NRA tries to persuade people that every reasonable regulation of guns is but a step toward the complete disarmament of American citizens. By stoking the fears of people for whom hunting is important, and people who want to be able to defend their home from intruders, the NRA gins up the demand for guns, while also paralyzing the nation’s ability to act sensibly.
Even measures that are supported by the great majority of American citizens are blocked from enactment. Thus, the real “American carnage” continues.
We Americans enjoy the right to free speech. But the Supreme Court said long ago that no one has the right to shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, because people’s right to free speech must be balanced with people’s right not to be trampled to death.
So when Todd Gilbert pretends to wonder why we’re talking about guns, I expect he really knows why, when the U.S. has a gun homicide rate 25 times that in other nations like ours.
America’s very high rate of death from guns (33,000 American lives lost per year) is not a “mental health” issue. Americans are not crazier than the rest of the world. It is because the U.S. alone, among the world’s free and prosperous nations, has been hobbled by the dishonest politics by an organization like the NRA and by politicians like Todd Gilbert.