A friend of mine is running for state representative. He gets a ton of questionnaires, including the two referenced in this submission. That would include the National Rifle Association of America and the Palmetto Gun Rights (PGR) and The National Association for Gun Rights questionnaire combo by co-joined gun interest groups, one headquartered in Windsor, Colorado. The second of the co-joined organizations has a PAC and a legal arm for lawsuits. A recent suit successfully sued for the right of postal workers to carry guns on facility parking lots, but not inside the actual Post Office. So, don’t tap any bumpers outside your local Post Office.
If you’ve never seen one of these questionnaires, here are some highlights. Let’s begin with the NRA “Political Victory Fund” tailored to specific states. It’s a cover page followed by 5 additional pages of mostly push-poll multiple-choice Q and A’s. In other words, by phrasing the choices in a certain way, the NRA is directing candidates to the answer sought. ‘
If you don’t return the questionnaire, you will be assigned the dreaded “?” rating. That’s tantamount to being interpreted by NRA membership as indifference, if not outright hostility, toward Second Amendment-related issues, according to the cover letter. In states where guns are carried and cuddled every waking moment, the “?” renders you a non-person at the polling place.
The NRA questionnaire is fraught with push-pull questions and propagandized words. Here’s an example: “Considering current South Carolina state firearm laws, would you support any additional restrictive state legislation regulating the sale, use, or possession of firearms or ammunition?” The key word is “restrictive.” Candidates will realize that response ‘e’ is the only answer that keeps them in the game: “No, current state firearm laws should be “improved” to benefit law-abiding (until blasting another drunk in a gin mill) gun owners and sportsmen in South Carolina.”
The whole questionnaire is a transparent setup that, in gun states, both Republicans AND Democrats answer for their A plus rating. That not only supposedly gets you votes, it adds to your campaign’s bottom line. Before visiting the essentially nonsensical, almost funny, PGR effort, let’s peek at the twisting of stats and facts by the NRA. The organization wants to do away with safety and trigger locks. “A lock severely limits the ability to use a firearm for self-defense purposes and potentially increases the risk of a firearm accident.”
Assorted studies ranging from Academia to the New England Journal of Medicine have all put the likelihood of being shot between 4 and 5 times greater for those possessing a firearm. And the idea that a safety or trigger lock increases the risk of a firearm accident is so absurd on its face that it defies all reason. In fact, the General Accounting Office estimates that one-third of accidental deaths could be eliminated with safety locks in place. Additional studies found an increase in suicides in homes where guns are openly stored and/or unlocked. A site called MinnPost points to a Policy Statement by the American Academy of Pediatricians urging parents to remove all guns from the home.
The NRA self-serving blarney isn’t just a couple of little fibs; it’s a collection of outright dangerous lies and there are other intentional distortions throughout the questionnaire. Bottom line, cowardly politicians are keeping the NRA killing fields populated with tens of thousands of American corpses annually.
Still, if you want to get free ALEC vacations and big gun money, you do as you’re told. And, believe me, you’re insidiously told how to answer NRA questions.
The other questionnaire is even more arbitrary and just this side of a straightjacket. If you fail to answer a question, it will be automatically graded as an anti-gun response. These are the extremists of the gun culture. Their questionnaire includes a pledge that you’ll introduce at least one piece of pro-gun legislation per year. You’re also expected to co-sponsor “a gun in every pot” legislation. Furthermore, you’ll only endorse and support pro-gun candidates in primary and general elections regardless of the “whims” of the party leadership. Questions touch on the wackadoo “Constitutional Carry” and nullification issues.
PGR goes NRA one better in actually beginning the questionnaire by what it calls a “background briefing.” The briefing tells the candidate the exact answer they want to subsequent questions. This outfit wants no restrictions, no regulations, no permits for gun sales by any Tom, Dick and Harry with a 9MM to spare. At its core, the questionnaire is intimidating and wildly irrelevant with the answers already provided.
Clint Eastwoods, you can keep your guns. Go ahead and make everybody’s day and chat with a chair while you’re at it. The feds can no more relieve you of your 310 million pieces of precious iron than they can ship back 11 or 12 million Mexican immigrants. Just be a little more flexible about safety issues. Do something useful like reading the legitimate studies that have found no protective competent for possessing a firearm, and numerous huge negatives such as accidentally killing your three-year-old.
A final word to wives, mothers and girlfriends — please vote for reasonable candidates. They’ll mostly be female and fearless. Sarah Brady has been working for decades to insert some common sense into the gun debate. She’s 72 now and for the last 32 of those years has loved and supported a husband who was shot in the head during the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan. She has also worked for sensible gun laws.
I’m sure she’s still a Republican, like her husband, James, the former White House Press Secretary for Reagan. She worked for two Republican representatives, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee. So it’s OK to be Republican and still support reasonable gun legislation.
Another long-time advocate for such legislation is Carolyn McCarthy. Like Sarah Brady, she has seen the consequences of gun violence. Her husband was killed, and her son severely injured by the Long Island Railroad shooter, Colin Ferguson, who opened fire on and in the train and killed 6 people in December of 1993. Three years later, Mrs. McCarthy was elected as a New York Democrat to the House of Representatives. She’s two years younger than Brady and, like Sarah, unable to make much progress in her gun efforts.
Our only hope is women’s votes and those of a few enlightened men. Reverse the notion of every venue being open to gun-toters. Guns are fine for hunting, target shooting and collecting. But guns don’t belong in churches or schools or on college campuses or in bars or government buildings or, frankly, any public places. Countries with few guns have few homicides.
That should tell even Tea Party members something. By the way, the candidate, a gun owner, didn’t return either questionnaire.