A Week of Gun Violence Does Nothing to Change the N.R.A.’s MessageBy Evan Osnos , July 8, 2016
The Violence Policy Center, a gun-safety group, noted that, in 2014, the most recent year for which information is available, “one in five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty were killed with an assault weapon.” The center’s executive director, Josh Sugarmann, said in a statement, “Responsibility for this lethal assault falls directly at the feet of the gun industry, which designs, markets, and sells the military-bred weapons necessary for such attacks. They must finally be held accountable.”
The Dallas ambush has also exposed an uncomfortable fact for the gun-rights movement: for decades, even as it maintains its abstract tributes to law enforcement, it has embraced a strain of insurrectionist rhetoric, overtly anti-government activism that endorses the notion that civilians should have guns for use against American police and military. In a 1995 fund-raising letter, the executive vice-president of the N.R.A., Wayne LaPierre, called federal law-enforcement agents “jack-booted thugs,” and suggested that “in Clinton’s administration, if you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.” In Texas, where the police ambush occurred, an open-carry advocate last year urged the killing of state legislators if they do not approve a more relaxed policy. (“They better start giving us our rights or this peaceful non-cooperation stuff is gonna be gamed up . . . We should be demanding [Texas legislators] give us our rights back, or it’s punishable by death. Treason.”) At the annual N.R.A. convention last year, the board member Ted Nugent said, “Our government has turned on us.” Stopping short of calling for violence, he urged members to focus their ire on “the bad and the ugly.” He said, “It’s a target-rich environment. If it was duck season, there’d be so many ducks, you could just close your eyes and shoot ’em.” …
More than a hundred million Americans live in households with guns, but many remain largely uninvolved in gun politics. The N.R.A. has between three and five million members, which means it represents only a sliver of American gun owners. Moreover, even among its members, many are unconvinced, I and others have found, by the belligerent rhetoric; they own and love guns for a variety of reasons—from sports to hunting to self-defense—and they overwhelmingly support reasonable steps to prevent innocent people, civilians or police, from being killed by gunfire.