Column: NRA has held U.S. hostage too long
After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida we have seen a community’s grief transformed into a national demand for action. But the Republican majorities in Congress have not even scheduled a hearing, let alone legislative measures to reduce gun violence — while President Trump veers from saying he might be willing to support something to rashly suggesting that arming teachers is the solution. This stone wall of resistance, deception and inaction, even after the most painful tragedies, is all too familiar.
Fifty years ago, one week after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, I was scheduled to deliver remarks to educators at Wayne State University. There was no avoiding addressing gun violence then, just as there is no avoiding it now. Then as now, there were also powerful interests standing in the way of a meaningful response to gun violence, namely the National Rifle Association.
I felt compelled to speak about the myths that the NRA was spreading regarding any effort toward sensible gun control. I said: “The basic truth is that the NRA isn’t interested mainly in the hunter’s welfare. It is interested in using the hunter as a lobbyist to protect the real interest of the NRA, selling guns to any and all that have the money.”
I noted then that the NRA’s lobbying techniques and misleading propaganda were highly effective, just as they are today. But even in the face of deceptive propaganda, facts remain stubborn things. Hunters don’t need assault weapons with magazines holding 30 or more bullets. They don’t need bump stocks. They don’t need armor piercing, cop-killing bullets. Nor are any of these items needed for self-defense.
In my 1968 speech, I said: “One of the favorite sayings of the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby is that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ The figures show the inaccuracy of the statement. The truth is that ‘people with guns kill people.’”
I pointed out, “there is no single answer [to violent crime], but the widespread, uncontrolled dissemination of guns in this country not only contributes to the atmosphere of violence, but provides an easy method for those with violent tendencies to carry out those tendencies.”
This statement remains irrefutable after tragic mass shootings in Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown and so many other communities in our nation.
Perpetrators of these acts of horrific violence often used weapons of war to inflict the greatest amount of carnage and suffering as possible. Without access to such weapons, these individuals would not have been able kill or wound nearly so many. You only have to compare the enormous amount of gun violence in the United States to nearly every other highly developed country in the world to come to the same conclusion.
But the time may be finally coming when the voices of grieving parents and terrified students will be heard over the bogus claims of the gun lobby. The American people have suffered through far too many moments of silence. They deserve a moment of action.
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, represents Michigan’s 9th District.