OP-ED | NRA is the New Definition of Chutzpah
In the six weeks since Sandy Hook, 695 people have been killed by guns in the United States. Twenty seven were teenagers, seven young children.
Even as Vice President Joe Biden held a press conference on Thursday to discuss some of the proposals under consideration, (such as universal background checks, a renewed ban on assault weapons, and a ban on high capacity magazines) a troubled teenager with a shotgun walked into Taft High School in California and shot two people, leaving one student in critical condition.
The shooter wasn’t killed by an educator packing heat — he’s alive and in custody. He was persuaded to put down his weapon by a teacher and an administrator. The armed deputy sheriff who is normally on duty at the school was prevented from getting to work by weather conditions.
When the NRA met with Vice President Biden later that afternoon, they ignored the Taft incident and instead repeated the same tired talking points.
“We attended today’s White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids, and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals. We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment . . . We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. “
In Yiddish, we have a word for statements like this — chutzpah. The classic definition of chutzpah is killing your parents and then claiming that you’re an orphan as a mitigating circumstance.
Why do I say this? Because the NRA lobbied for legislation blocking the very things that would help keep guns out of the hands of “criminals and madmen” while pushing legislation that prohibits mental health professionals from doing their jobs.
Example: Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s 2011 Firearms Privacy Act prohibits physicians from asking about the presence of guns in the home. Offenders face fines of up to $10,000 and the possible loss of medical license. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke blocked the law on the basis that it interfered with physicians’ First Amendment rights, but Scott has vowed to appeal.
Gov. Scott has an “A” rating from the NRA.
Along with 20 other states, Florida also passed a version of the Stand Your Ground Law championed by the NRA and ALEC. Research from Texas A&M found “significant evidence” that such laws lead to more homicides. “Estimates indicate that the laws increase homicides by a statistically significant 8 percent, which translates into an additional 600 homicides per year across states that adopted castle doctrine.”
Then we have the Tiahrt Amendments, named for their sponsor, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kansas, attached to every U.S. Department of Justice Appropriations Bill since 2003. These amendments are opposed by a coalition of 350 mayors and 200 police chiefs because they hamper the ability to restrict the flow of illegal weapons to criminals.
Rep. Tiahrt has an “A” rating from the NRA.
In our own state, we have the Board of Fire Arms Permit Examiners, which is appointed by the Governor from candidates nominated by the Commissioner of Public Safety, Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, the Connecticut State Rifle and Revolver Association Inc., and Ye Connecticut Gun Guild Inc.
As retired Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling explained, “Many times, police officers have personal knowledge of individuals that should be used to refuse them a firearm permit, which is communicated to the police chief who will review and decide whether to approve an permit application. If refused, the individual has a right to appeal. Most do and all too often, despite clear and convincing evidence the refusal should be upheld, the Firearms Appeals Board will overrule the Chief’s decision. The reversal is normally justified by pointing out the charges against an individual have been nolled, dropped, or the person has applied for and received, accelerated rehabilitation. As a result, there are many individuals who, in the minds of the local law enforcement agency are unstable, legally carrying firearms on the streets of our communities.”
Yesterday, a distinguished group of doctors, psychiatrists, and professors from a diverse range of disciplines sent a letter to Vice President Biden with two major policy recommendations. Recognizing that there is a huge economic cost to gun violence — in the order of $100 billion a year — they recommend two things: 1) removal of the current barriers to firearm-related research, policy formation, evaluation and enforcement efforts, and; 2) Making direct investments in unbiased scientific research and infrastructure, such as implementing the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System in all 50 states.
When you look at the chart below it’s apparent that NRA lobbying has led to restrictions on funding for research on gun violence. As a post-Newtown op-ed in the Journal of American Medicine pointed out: “Criticizing research is fair game; suppressing research by targeting its sources of funding is not.”
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.