I believe in the Second Amendment. I’m a gun owner. I have a permit to carry. I carried a weapon 24/7 when deployed overseas twice since 9/11. And when I served in Congress, I voted in 2008 to repeal Washington D.C.’s handgun ban, which I believed violated the Second Amendment because it prohibited 600,000 District residents from owning a weapon, even for the purpose of defending their home.
These views earned me an F rating from the NRA lobby. That’s right, an F. According to the NRA lobby, I was a “true enemy of gun owners’ rights.”
That’s because the NRA lobby isn’t actually interested in protecting the rights of the many Americans who own a weapon to protect their homes and their loved ones. It has chosen to pursue an extreme agenda that’s radically out of touch with the views of most Americans, most gun owners, and even most of its members.
It’s been only four months, but already more than 3,300 Americans have died from gun violence since Newtown. The NRA lobby is shooting blanks on how to prevent more tragedies. Their “school shield” proposal was insensitive and has already proven ineffective. Armed guards didn’t work at Columbine and they aren’t the solution now.
There are a number of commonsense reforms on the table. The first, and most popular, would be legislation requiring background checks on every gun sale.
Universal background checks are one of the most effective ways to prevent dangerous people from purchasing guns. That’s why 19 Republicans in the Senate joined their Democratic colleagues last week to prevent a filibuster of this important legislation.
This includes the Second Amendment Foundation—the country’s second-largest organization of gun advocates—which endorsed the background check legislation proposed by Senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin last week.
It also includes 91% of veterans, a group that knows well what a weapon can do to the human body. Last week, as a National Co-Chair of Veterans for Responsible Gun Ownership, I traveled to Washington with a group of distinguished former service members—including Congressman Mike Thompson and Jon Soltz of VoteVets—to tell Congress to pass a background check bill now. We cannot wait any longer to save lives.
Six years ago, a gunman killed 27 students and 5 faculty members at Virginia Tech. A court had previously deemed the shooter mentally ill. Better universal background checks would have kept a weapon out of his hands.
President Obama put it best, asking “What’s more important—our children or an ‘A’ grade from the gun lobby?”
What does it take to earn an A rating from the NRA? The association is against an assault weapons ban, which would bar the sale of military-style weapons. It opposes restrictions on high capacity magazines, which dramatically increase the number of rounds a gunman can fire without stopping to reload. The NRA lobbied against a ban on so-called “cop-killer bullets” capable of penetrating the bulletproof vests commonly worn by law enforcement officials. And yes, it supports those unable to fly because they are on terrorist-watch-lists so they can still legally purchase a .50 caliber sniper rifle–these are rifles that can shoot someone a mile away–or shoot down the plane they can’t travel on when it’s taking off or landing.
Law-abiding Americans don’t need assault weapons. They don’t need high-capacity magazines. They don’t need cop-killer bullets. They don’t need sniper rifles. Outside of combat, there is no legitimate civilian use for these technologies.
The NRA lobby likes to say that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. But nobody has done more to make it easier for bad guys to get guns than the NRA.
As Congress ponders legislation to prevent more needless deaths, the #NoMoreNames campaign is holding vigil at the Capitol, reading aloud the names of those Americans who have died from gun violence since Newtown.
We all know the NRA is powerful; they took in over $227 million in 2010. But lawmakers must ask themselves: do they stand with the 90% of their constituents who want an end to the violence? Or will they vote with the gun lobby?