Bruell column: The real winner of America’s gun safety impasse
Lynn-Wood Fields grew up hunting with her father in rural Montana, putting food on their table. Her father instilled in her the importance of weapon safety. And, like most gun owners, he was a supporter of basic gun safety regulations. Fields still lives in Montana, still owns a gun and is now the mother of two school-age boys.
In a radio interview after the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Fields said that she believes commonsense gun regulations — the kind that are supported by the majority of gun owners — are not being enacted because of party divisions.
Legislators’ votes on gun safety measures do tend to follow along party lines. Interestingly, that’s not the case when we consider the rest of us non-legislators. Over two-thirds of Republican voters support basic gun safety measures including mandatory background checks on all gun sales, expanded screening for mentally ill people, and banning gun sales to people under 21. The overwhelming majority of gun owners also support these measures. So why aren’t these laws getting passed?
I love the idea of Fields’ proposal, that if we elected more parents into positions of power, they would be inspired to prioritize the safety of children above all else and vote in support of basic gun safety measures. Unfortunately, other factors are keeping certain lawmakers — even those with children — from taking this position. The underlying factor is money.
Currently, huge corporations that manufacture guns are funneling money to politicians so that they will vote against commonsense gun safety measures. Keeping gun restrictions extremely loose results in enormous profits for these corporations.
Corporations like these are channeling their funds through the National Rifle Association and other gun rights lobbying and advocacy groups. For the first 100 years of its existence, the NRA focused on marksmanship, hunting and promoting the proper and safe use of firearms. They even supported the 1934 National Firearms Act that outlawed fully automatic weapons in response to the violence of gangsters like Al Capone during Prohibition.
Sadly, the NRA of today is more concerned about the profits of gun manufacturing corporations than about serving the interests of gun owners. The majority of their funding no longer comes from membership dues, but from contributions, advertising and other gun-industry sources.
The NRA’s lobbying arm started 2021 with nearly $50 million in net assets. Over the years, Mitch McConnell has received over $1.25 million in donations from the NRA. Mitt Romney has received over $13 million.
The NRA, and the politicians they buy, justify their stance against sensible safety measures by claiming that such measures are a slippery slope leading to the complete elimination of the Second Amendment.
Similar alarms were sounded by senior executives of the cigarette industry in the 1990s, claiming that any regulation of the manufacturing or marketing of cigarettes would lead to a complete ban of cigarettes. Of course, that didn’t happen. But measures were passed to limit the addictiveness of cigarettes and to ban marketing to children — something the gun industry still does.
Stirring up people’s fears that the government is preparing to take away people’s guns also results in people going out and buying more guns — another plus for corporate profits. In general, whipping up a sense of panic and divisiveness in the public sphere is good for business for these corporations. Guns are marketed around the idea that there are a growing number of “evil people” that we need to defend ourselves against. In fact, using FBI data, violent crime has fallen 49% nationwide since the 1990s and property crime has fallen 55%.
Gun-manufacturing corporations benefit by pitting gun owners against non-gun owners — provoking people on the left to demonize all gun owners and convincing people on the right that gun safety activists are secretly plotting to overturn the Second Amendment. By keeping us fighting with each other, they distract us from the profits these corporations are amassing by allowing almost anyone to buy an assault weapon.
And while activists on the left and the right are busy shouting past each other, it’s easy to forget that the overwhelming majority of Americans — gun owners and non-gun owners — believe that passing basic gun safety measures would help to reduce the devastating number of school shootings occurring in our country.
The bipartisan agreement currently being considered is far too limited. It would still allow 18-year-olds to buy assault weapons and allow unlicensed and private sellers to sell guns without doing background checks.
On average, the U.S. experiences 25 times more gun violence than other developed nations. Every single one of those nations has the kind of sensible gun regulations favored by most Americans. President Biden got it right: “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” The answer to that question needs to be, “now.”
Debbie Bruell of Carbondale chairs the Garfield County Democrats.
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