The shooting in Newtown, Conn. is one of the worst tragedies to afflict America in recent years. President Obama went as far as to say that it was the worst day of his presidency.
Also tragic, however, is the degree to which the National Rifle Association (NRA) has long prevented lawmakers from taking action to end such shootings, when it could so easily be done.
With its four million members and $300 million annual budget, the NRA, indisputably the biggest player in the gun control debate, has simultaneously reduced the issue to fear tactics and illogical arguments, while threatening democracy and opposing the will of the American people.
According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, 54 percent of Americans, including a majority of independents, think gun control laws should be tightened — up from 39 percent last April.
While states like New York and Maryland are looking to take meaningful action to prevent yet another mass shooting in America, the effort to reduce gun violence has been hijacked by the NRA, a group of unelected lobbyists with dogmatic ideals that are divorced from reality.
The NRA is like any other lobbying group in that it exists to have as big of a presence in Washington as possible, which requires a large membership and budget. And this group empirically excels at advancing its agenda, especially in opposition to a significant public opinion.
It is unique, however, in its ability to take away almost all seriousness from debate of its respective special interest, thus preventing any threat to its power, and has done so on two accounts. The first is insisting that the Obama administration wants to take away guns from all Americans.
Most Americans identify with gun-ownership and recognize the benefits of hunting and self-defense, but the right to bear arms is clearly not the issue at hand.
The NRA has effectively shifted much of the conversation away from mental health, a potential reinstitution of the assault weapons ban, regulating sizes of clips, and so-on, into its absolutist, binary interpretation of the Second Amendment.
This is not only a gun issue, but is symptomatic of how Washington runs these days: with lobbyists having more power than elected officials.
Let’s also consider the absolute absurdity of Wayne LaPierre’s call to put a gun in every classroom in the nation. He reduces serious national problems to “good guys” and “bad guys.”
Aside from such a plan being a boon for gun manufacturers, it sounds like quite a bit to ask from teachers. Not only to carry a gun at all times and still try to teach children, but to be willing to use a handgun to take down any potential killer who would likely be armed with multiple assault weapons.
This argument wholeheartedly ignores the shooting at the Empire State Building last summer in which the police wounded nine bystanders before killing the gunman.
The NRA’s other primary argument against renewed gun legislation goes like this: “Gun control laws won’t prevent all massacres, so what’s the point in trying?”
This is like saying that the illegality of drunken driving will not prevent all alcohol-related accidents, so imposing legislation to prevent it is futile.
Of course it is impossible to prevent any mass shooting from occurring, but that entirely misses the point.
Events like the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, and more recent shootings in Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora and the Sikh temple in Wisconsin have rendered mass shootings as an epidemic in America. And tragically, a slaughtering of 20 first graders and six teachers in Newtown was what required members of Congress to stand up to the NRA and the public to shift its attitude toward sensible gun control.
These recurring shootings and the nonsensical arguments on both sides of the debate force Americans to ask an overlooked question: Can we be doing any better at preventing gun violence than we are right now?”
Ross Fogg is an College junior from Fayetteville, Ga.