• author
    • David Weinshilboum

    • December 15, 2013 in Columnists

    Open Letter to the NRA

    Dear NRA member,

    Let’s start with the obvious. We don’t see eye to eye on guns. Really, though, we aren’t that different. You want your family to be safe; I would do anything to protect my family, too. You want control of your decisions without government interference. Me too.

    You also don’t want the government to mess with your right to bear arms. I get that. I don’t want the government take your firearms, either. I trust the government only slightly more than you.

    I don’t want gun control. I want gun oversight. Think about it, the government oversees everything from toys to food to medicine. Manufacturers of these products must prove that they are providing a quality product to consumers. Without oversight, America exposes itself to catastrophes like the one that happened in China in 2008. What happened? Baby formula producers sold a poison product tainted with melamine. According to news reports, the formula sickened thousands of infants and killed at least 60 babies.

    A government with no oversight is a delinquent government. I think we both agree that selling guns to anyone and everyone is problematic. Gun shops shouldn’t sell weapons to terrorists. You’ve got to prove that you’re on the up and up to own a gun.

    Been incarcerated? No guns. Mental illness? No guns.

    I live in California and there are fewer loopholes for ex-convicts and mentally unstable people to own guns. Unlike the supermajority of states, California requires background checks at gun shows.

    Alas, in neighboring states like Arizona, mentally unstable citizens can walk into a gun show and, no questions asked, purchase a semi-automatic rifle. In fact, Jared Lee Loughner — a man who killed six people when he attempted to assassinate then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January of 2011 — could have purchased his guns at aforementioned gun shows without a single background check. Loughner, you remember, shot and killed 9-year-old Christina Taylor-Greene.

    I understand that the NRA fights to insure your right to bear arms. Unfortunately, the NRA also supports Loughner’s rights. In fact, your NRA membership fees contribute to Loughner-abetting laws. Can we — two logical, mentally stable, record-free human beings — agree that people with predisposed mental illness like Loughner should lose his second amendment rights? Can’t we agree that Christina Taylor-Green’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness usurps Loughner’s alleged amendment-given right to carry weapons of mass destruction?

    Personally, I have chosen not to keep firearms in my house. The idea of having such a dangerous weapon around my children is not an acceptable risk, and the risks are considerable. The fact that 3-year-olds can operate a gun is anathema to me. A three-year-old can’t drive a car; her legs can’t reach the pedals. Yet, gun manufacturers have created a product that has been picked up and used by preschoolers on a regular basis. In the past year, 259 children have died from guns, according to an exhaustive study performed my The New York Times (the number is likely higher since the way these shootings are classified differ widely from one jurisdiction to another). One such fatality was 3-year-old Ryder Rozier of Oklahoma. He shot and killed himself earlier this year when he found an unsecured gun at his uncle’s house.

    I know where you’re going with this: you are far more responsible than the aforementioned statistics and examples. You’re confident that your children will never, ever get a hold of your guns. You are extremely careful about how you store firearms. You want guns to protect yourself, your family. I get that, too.

    I understand the confidence in your abilities. However, when you collect dozens of guns—semi-automatics intended for war—you must take on a much larger responsibility: the responsibility of your community. That’s why you should pay exorbitant insurance premiums to keep a weapon cache usually only found in video games. That’s why you should be responsible not just for yourself, but for everyone in your household. If a person living in your house is at risk, you too should compromise your second-amendment rights. Keep the guns elsewhere or don’t have them at all.

    That’s what Nancy Lanza should have done.

    She was convinced that she could handle guns and her son’s mental illness. One year ago, her son Adam Lanza shot and killed her. He then took the guns to Sandy Hook Elementary and killed 6 more adults and 20 children. Nancy Lanza was convinced that she could take care of her son.

    She couldn’t.

    Nancy Lanza should serve as a caveat to you and the organization to which you subscribe. Ms. Lanza failed her community when she brought all those weapons into her house. She failed herself; she failed her son; she failed Sandy Hook.

    We both have strong views. We both are confident in our beliefs. We are both like Nancy Lanza.

    No doubt you disagree with me. You probably absolve Ms. Lanza of wrongdoing.

    You shouldn’t.

    David Weinshilboum, who kind of expects classy threats from those who disagree with him, can be reached at david_weinshilboum@yahoo.com.

      • Nate

      • December 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm
      • Reply

      Your points are well placed and I agree that we need better gun controls in place for safety. What do you actually propose? Back ground checks are a start. What Adam Lanza did was beyond horrible. What can we do about him and others like him with mental illness? Anyone who wants to cause harm to a person can if they try. He stole his mother’s guns, He killed a lot of people. He could have stolen anyone’s guns or purchased stolen guns to commit murder. He and others like him could have used other things to cause harm. Should we just outlaw all things that are dangerous? The government has just regulated the last smelting plant out of business. That was the only plant in the United States that processes lead for ammunition. No lead for bullets = less ammunition for any firearms. Looks like the liberal agenda is doing just fine. The NRA needs to find some common ground and work towards fixing the problem, but the Feinstein approach will not be accepted by gun owners weather they are NRA members or not . What is your answer?

      • Nate, the answer to your question, as I read it, is better mental health care. Currently, the only national mental health care program is to incarcerate. Is the prison system the appropriate venue to care for Americans with an illness? Has our prison system done anything to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and former criminals? Nope.(X2)

          • Nate

          • December 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

          No and No. Unfortunately incarceration only improves criminal education. Mental health care in our country has a lot of room to grow.

      • Sarah Jacobsen

      • December 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm
      • Reply

      Bravo David, bravo! Very well written and convincing. I hate the fact that people contort and personalize the 2nd amendment to justify having a gun.

    • Nicely put, David. I spent five years in the Army 25 years ago and fired an M-16 at targets. I have never owned a gun and have chosen not to fire one since. A co worker told me of an experience where a man in Oakdale successfully defended his house from a crazed drug addict with his gun. In the mind of my friend that justified gun ownership. In my mind, that is the wide exception to the rule. I wonder what the statistics are of people who have defended theirs homes against an intruder compared to the number of people who have killed or injured themselves or a loved one.

    • I agree David. Tightened all laws to buy a gun. And of course more money for mental illness. A prison is not the place for the mentally ill.

      • David Weinshilboum

      • December 15, 2013 at 11:10 pm
      • Reply

      @Nate: I think I made my proposals relatively clear: universal background checks (as the NRA circa 2003 supported) and oversight for those who suffer from psychiatric illness or those who live with seriously ill people.

        • nate

        • December 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm
        • Reply

        I understood your ideas. And I agree that these are great starting points. I meant was, how do we as a country get to those points. It’s more complicated than giving ideas, but that is a way to start.

      • David Weinshilboum

      • December 15, 2013 at 11:10 pm
      • Reply

      @Sarah, Thanks for the nice words. Glad we were able to reconnect via FB!

      • David Weinshilboum

      • December 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm
      • Reply

      @norvaljoe: I wish I had more statistics, too. All I know is that guns and boys are a bad mix–and I have two boys that I want to grow old.

    • Really excellent column. The issue of the gun debate that still gnaws at me is that laws only work on people who obey laws. People who set out to murder or harm others don’t give a crap about laws. And, it is true – the average NRA member takes the laws seriously. A criminal doesn’t. In the end… laws won’t work on them. They are, by definition, lawbreakers, and will still get their hands on guns, illegally.

      The underlying problem to gun violence, as well as murder and rape, is an internal disregard for the wellbeing of others. A belief that “whatever I want, no matter who is harmed, it’s OK.” In the end, it’s true – guns don’t kill people. People kill people. People are the problem. How do we teach people to rise above their nature. There’s the real challenge.

      Take away guns, sociopaths will use knives. Or bats. Or bombs. Or backpacks. If they want to kill, they will kill. THAT is the problem, and I don’t know what the solution is.

      Sure, reducing the amount of easily procured guns might make it more difficult for killers to get their hands on them. Might.

      I suppose it will feel better to do something rather than nothing. I am just skeptical that it will work.

    • How do we teach love and kindness??? Empathy? Compassion? Boundaries? How do we reach out to the disaffected and rejected, and the mentally ill? These are the real “cures” for the gun violence disease. But they are difficult, and take a lot of time, energy, commitment and participation. It’s easier to make laws. Harder to solve the real problem.

      • David Lacy

      • December 16, 2013 at 10:20 am
      • Reply

      Debra, the fallacy is that most of the gun deaths are caused by sociopaths or “criminals” with predetermined intent. After all, these are the situations we see in the media (rather than the hundreds of gun deaths EVERY day in this nation). Statistically speaking, this narrative is 100 percent false.

      As a matter of fact, they are not. They are a result of domestic violence situations that escalate (and expanded background checks on arrests could– not eliminate but mitigate access to weapons for these individuals). They are the result of suicides and accidents, children getting their hands on their parents’ weaponry, road rage and other crimes of passion (catching a significant other in an affair) that escalates, and the immediate access to a gun (during that pivotal, heated moment) is what leads to the fatality. In fact, one study pointed out that even when a home intruder broke into a home, he still had the element of surprise, and the homeowner having a gun actually put him (the homeowner at GREATER risk for his own life.)

      Part of the problem with the whole “the bad guys always have access to guns” is implicit in the idea that there are “bad guys” and “good guys.” Oh sure, there are definitely evil people out there (the low-life who shot Leslie for instance), but the rest fall along a broad human spectrum of behavior and circumstance that particular gun laws (checks for arrests, checks for mental health — both of these would have been fantastic for the Naval Yard shooter) could significantly help with.

      The anti-regulatory crowd has made this about “banning” or “denying” every goddamn time a liberal (or 90 percent of the nation for that matter) asks for additional regulatory measure. Honestly, we get confused by the illogical retort: No one is discussing a ban, especially on the most problematic of weaponry (handguns). So we are utterly confused as to why they keep jumping to that claim.

      Lastly, the bats and knives argument is silly; these items are not designed with the intent to destroy. Also, gun deaths are in the tens of thousands annually in this nation (sorry, it’s just much easier to kill with a gun than a bat).

      • David, I think you miss my point… the root of the problem is still people. And that’s a much more difficult problem to solve. No gun laws would have stopped the massacres in Newtown or Columbine or Aurora. The guns were obtained illegally. There is something intrinsically wrong with US – the human species. I find this deeply troubling.

        That is my point about the bat and bombs – not that one is more lethal than the other, but that humans will kill with anything they can get their hands on. In the Boston Marathon bombings, no one suggested a ban on pressure cookers or new laws controlling them. The tool used to kill wasn’t the point.

        The killing in Winters – just because the killing was the result of domestic violence does not mean that the killer isn’t a sociopath. In this case, he clearly is a sociopath. Leslie’s mother told me that the gun was sort of irrelevant – if it wasn’t a gun, it would have been a knife or a rope or his bare hands.

        I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be new laws regarding guns, but maybe we’re talking about the wrong laws. All the laws being discussed fall upon the gun owners, who absolutely should be responsible for their weapons, and maybe should have to carry liability insurance for each weapon, and also be required to have a gun safe to store them. However, I think the laws on the offenders need to be ratcheted up. For example: If you are found in possession of a gun that doesn’t belong to you, and isn’t registered as such, a mandatory five years in prison, no early release. Maybe 10. Use that gun in the commission of a crime – double the sentence. Kill someone with it? Mandatory life in prison.

        It is a fact that none of the mass murders in the U.S. were committed by NRA members. NRA members actually WANT people to obey gun laws. It’s the ones who won’t that are the source of the violence. And – I am focusing here on the intentional murders – not accidents. As for accidents, again, that law that says all guns must be stored in a locked gun safe would help. And anyone who doesn’t do that, and a child gets hold of the gun and kills someone or him/herself – also a mandatory prison term that includes “felony child endangerment” in addition to the gun law violation.

        You have to separate the types of gun deaths and tailor solutions for each. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be tighter laws. What I AM saying is that I am pessimistic about their efficacy on people who have no regard for the law. It is already against the law to steal and murder. New gun laws may give people a false sense of security, like the TSA inspections at the airport. People with the drive to harm and kill others – they are creatively evil. That’s the source of the problem, and for that, I have no solution.

      • David Weinshilboum

      • December 16, 2013 at 9:53 pm
      • Reply

      @nate: good point. In reality, I don’t think the gun issue is ever going to be one addressed by laws; it’ll be determined by money and the courts. I am hopeful that the family of one of the Sandy Hook victims will go after the Lanza estate, bleed them for every dollar. That way, it would be impossible to obtain any sort of insurance. Premiums would be so high–or better yet, insurance companies would refuse insurance to the likes of the Lanzas–that it wouldn’t be worth their while to own these sort of weapons. It’s not so far fetched. Former New York mayor Bloomberg is investing hundreds of millions to the cause. He’d undoubtedly assist with an effort of this sort. When it comes to America, money is FAR more effective than the “democratic process.”

    • Why can’t we all just get along…. and live and let live… 🙁

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