Back in 2014, when Mike Bloomberg ponied up $50 million to help empower Shannon Watts and her ladies (that’s not a rock band) to begin leveling the playing field against the NRA, the guardians of our beloved 2nd Amendment began running some television ads designed to remind us lucky gun owners how mean-spirited and dangerous a guy like Bloomberg could be. One ad aired during the battle over extending background checks in Colorado, and it showed a Western-style chick tooling along in her 4X4, with a voice-over accusing Mayor Mike of being an “elitist” and “hypocrite” because he wanted to ban snack foods, soda and, of course, guns.
The snarky NRA campaign fizzled, of course, but what I found interesting was the attempt to link firearms regulation to Bloomberg’s long-standing public health concerns on healthier eating, as if full-calorie soft drinks, potato chips and guns all help promote the common good. Now it’s one thing to argue about whether or not guns represent a benefit or a risk; John Lott gets away with promoting the ‘more guns equals less crime’ nonsense because scholars whose research supports the opposite point of view are honest enough to admit that their argument may not yet be airtight. But the medical evidence on health risks from soda pop and junk foods is compelling, even though the NRA would have you believe that the benefits of guns, smokes and Twinkies are one and the same. I’m surprised the NRA didn’t also score Bloomberg for his anti-smoking campaign, but give the folks in Fairfax credit for a bit of reality-testing, if only a bit.
What I won’t give them credit for, however, is their continued attempt to pretend that firearm regulation doesn’t work and that any effort to extend regulations is nothing more than a nefarious effort to get rid of all the guns. And their latest broadside in this respect is the editorial by NRA head lobbyist Chris Cox, who responded to the Virginia shooting of two journalists by stating, “the fact is that no piece of legislation would have stopped this brutal crime.” And in case you’re wondering, the NRA does have a solution for the occasions when a deranged individual gets his hands on a gun and starts shooting everything in sight – it’s called “fix the mental health system,” whatever that meaningless sentence can be believed to mean.
The position of the NRA boils down to this: there is no such thing as gun ‘violence;’ people are violent and guns are beside the point. Ergo, we need to solve the root causes of violence and forget about the guns. This is not only a cynical and self-serving approach to the problem, it’s not true. And I think it’s time for all the gun-control activists to stand up, take off the gloves, and begin responding in kind. I’m not saying that the activist community should invent false arguments to promote the idea that guns are a risk to life and health; the evidence is clearly there. They should stop being so worried about the 2nd Amendment, they should stop being so polite, they should tell it like it is.
When the NRA says guns aren’t the problem, people are the problem, they are promoting behavior that is a risk to well-being and health. When the NRA says background checks don’t work so we don’t need to extend background checks to private sales they are making it easier for guns to get into the wrong hands. When the NRA says they were “touched” by the Virginia tragedy they are shedding crocodile tears, because it’s the proliferation of handguns designed to be carried by all those dutiful ‘armed citizens’ which brought that shooting about.
If I learned anything from the recent shenanigans of Donald Trump, it’s that he who yells loudest usually gets heard. I don’t see why the gun-control community can’t ramp up the volume and drive their arguments home. The good news is that their arguments are true, and sooner or later, truth will out.