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Mike Elk

Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times

March 16th, 2011 11:59 PM

The NRA Can’t Take Yes For An Answer

Earlier this week, one of the biggest backers of the Republican Party, the NRA, refused to meet with President Obama to discuss vital gun control measures supported by 86% of Americans, 80% of gun owners, and roughly 70% of their own membership.

President Obama pointed out in a Sunday op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star that nearly 2,000 people have been killed in gun violence since the Tucson Shooting (a March 13th Newsweek piece had the number at over 2,400), but not a single step has been taken to prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals, terrorists or the mentally unstable, such as Jared Loughner.

Yet, in a predictable act of cynicism, the National Rifle Association refuses to meet with the White House to even discuss measures they have said themselves they’d be willing to consider or even outright support. Apparently, the NRA can’t take yes for an answer.

The President, in his piece, proposed fixes to our system of background checks, such as improving the National Instant Criminal Background System to ensure all records of criminals, drug abusers, and the mentally ill are entered into the system by the states and federal institutions. In other words, ensuring that those who are already prohibited by law from buying guns, do not continue to have de facto access to them.

He also proposed the common-sense measure of requiring background checks for every gun sale, and creating a faster system of background checks. This quicker, more accurate system of checks would be good for gun buyers and sellers alike. It would lead to fewer delays and mistakes, something a recent poll shows 86% of NRA members agree is important.

The plan is also supported by a bipartisan coalition of mayors called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, whose blueprint for “fixing background checks” this proposal resembles. “Too often, any serious discussion about guns devolves into ideological arguments that have nothing to do with the real problem,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a co-founder of the 550-strong member mayors group told the Huffington Post. “Our coalition strongly believes in the Second Amendment. We also know from experience that we can keep guns away from dangerous people without imposing burdens on law-abiding gun owners."

So all manner of Republican politicians and even NRA members support this proposal, yet the elite Washington leadership of the NRA refuse to meet with the President. Why would this be?

According to National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, “Why should I or the N.R.A. go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?” He continued, “It shouldn’t be a dialogue about guns; it really should be a dialogue about dangerous people,”

So let me get this straight, the National Rifle Association basically takes the same position as the President, that guns should be keep out of the hands of dangerous people such as criminals, drug abusers, terrorists, and mentally unstable people. But still the NRA Leadership refuses to meet with the President to discuss this proposal?

Even though on the surface this makes no sense, therein lies the rub. You see, if this were about protecting people, as the NRA claims is a key mission of theirs, they’d sit down with the President of the United States when invited, forthwith. But it’s not.

It’s about scoring political points and protecting LaPierre’s status as the 4th highest paid leader of any “charity organization” in the country, to the tune of a cool $1.281 million per year. And fear of Obama, the first black President, has been very, very good for fundraising and scaring middle-aged white men into stocking their basements with caches of weapons. Which means it’s also been very, very good for LaPierre’s bottom line, and that of the arms dealers who sit on the NRA’s Board.

Writing in the Arizona Daily Star President Obama stated “I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country. However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place. ”

Yet, the National Rifle Association, an organization that prides itself on its patriotism, has no interest in making America a better, safer place. Instead, they simply wish to create fake political food fights, so they can convince working-class people to fight against their own economic interests, and in favor of LaPierre's and his cronies.

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