Saturday, January 19, 2013

The NRA's Congressman Brady

On Wednesday, President Obama offered his plan for requiring universal background checks, restricting access to some guns and high capacity magazine clips and other changes that are intended to help cut into the epidemic of gun violence in this country. Soon after, my email box received a statement from my elected representative in Congress, Kevin Brady, a Republican. His response to the president's proposals was straight from a script of National Rifle Association talking points.
I want our children safe at school and our Second Amendment rights protected at home. Today's proposals do neither.
Strong gun control laws in Connecticut didn't stop the Sandy Hook tragedy - and won't stop others like them in America. In fact, areas with the most restrictive gun laws historically suffer from higher rates of gun violence.
As for the 23 executive orders, why did it take the deaths of school children, movie-goers and an attack on a congresswoman before the President finally acted to enforce existing gun laws?
Why did it take so long to decide that we should keep guns away from the mentally ill, insist agencies work together and fill the ATF leadership vacancy?
I also question the wisdom of turning doctors into law enforcement investigators, and I can't help but notice that Hollywood - which profits greatly from fostering America's culture of violence - got a complete pass.
That's disappointing for parents like me who fight to shield our children from the relentless, in-your-face violence on TV screens and at the movies.
So, he just rejected everything the president said, without offering anything constructive in response, plus his statement is filled with inaccuracies and disingenuosness. For example, the statement that areas with the most restrictive gun laws historically suffer from higher rates of gun violence is categorically untrue. Consider this from the Legal Community Against Violence:

Ten States with the strongest gun laws:                                                           
California
New Jersey
Massachusetts
Hawaii
Connecticut
Illinois
Maryland
New York (The list was compiled prior to their recently passed laws.)
Rhode Island
Florida                                                                                      
                               
Ten States with the weakest gun laws:
Montana
Arkansas
Maine
Wyoming
Kentucky
Mississippi
New Mexico
Idaho
Vermont
Arizona

Compare these lists with the states with highest and lowest gun death rates.

Ten States with the highest gun death rates:
Louisiana
Mississippi
Alaska
Alabama
Nevada
Arkansas
Tennessee
New Mexico
Arizona
West Virginia
Ten States with the lowest gun death rates:
Hawaii
Rhode Island
Massachusetts
Connecticut
New York
New Jersey
Iowa
New Hampshire
South Dakota
Minnesota

The states with the strictest gun laws, in fact, have some of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths.

As for Connecticut's strict gun laws not stopping the madman from slaughtering the children at Sandy Hook, that is perhaps the best argument for federal gun laws that would ban military-style assault rifles and high capacity magazine clips. If he had not had such weapons available to him, he may have still managed to kill some people at the school, but it is unlikely that he would have been able to kill 26. He would have had to stop and reload which would have given the adults there a chance to stop him.

The disingenuousness of Mr. Brady's statement comes in his complaining because existing gun laws are not enforced. The Senate has refused for six years (at the behest of the NRA) to confirm a director for the ATF. Congress has refused to appropriate money for the agency's staffing and has specifically added riders to laws that would actually prevent the ATF from monitoring and regulating guns, again at the behest of the NRA.  And the congressman has the nerve to whine about the laws not being enforced? Where was he when the votes were counted?

As for the CDC collecting data on gun violence, who better than doctors who have to deal with the results of gun violence? I suppose Brady would prefer that the NRA do it! If we do not have this information, how can we make wise decisions about what needs to be done to prevent it?  

Lastly, of course, Brady parrots the old NRA bromide that it is all Hollywood's fault with their violent movies and video games. The real problem with that argument is that other countries are just as steeped - if not more so - in violent video games and violent movies and yet no industrialized country in the world comes near us in the rate of gun deaths and injuries that are suffered here every year, every day. If you pick up our local newspaper, The Houston Chronicle, any day of the week, you will find the news of someone being murdered with a gun. What is different about our country and all those other countries? Our ready access to guns of virtually any kind. We continue to retain our title of the "most armed country in the world." The NRA must be so proud.

It is passing strange to me that a congressman would be more interested in getting an "A" rating from the NRA than in protecting tiny children from literally being blown to bits by assault rifles with high capacity magazine clips. I wonder what Congressman Brady's explanation would be as to why he is against universal background checks that would help keep such weapons out of the hands of mentally ill people, or for that matter, why he would be against banning such weapons altogether. They are not appropriate hunting tools or target-shooting weapons. Their only use is for killing people. Why does Congressman Brady think they have a place on our streets? I plan to ask him.

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