The National Rifle Association (“NRA”) held its annual convention in St. Louis over the past three days (Sunday morning they held a prayer breakfast, because nothing says “god” like the NRA’s obsession with guns!) and Mitt Romney was, of course, there to continue demonstrating that reactionary conservatives, not moderates, would be running the show if Romney were to be elected President. In a speech full of platitudes about “freedom,” Romney fed into the NRA’s conspiracy theory that President Obama is somehow planning to take away everyone’s guns after the 2012 elections by repeatedly accusing President Obama of attacking or minimizing gun rights, and raising the specter of Obama appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn recent decisions that found a Constitutional right of individuals to bear arms.
Romney and the NRA’s fear mongering about President Obama and guns is, of course, utter poppycock. Much to the dismay of progressives such as myself, President Obama has been completely absent in efforts to enact sensible gun legislation. As the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence explained in giving an “F” rating to the first year of the Obama Administration:
President Obama signed legislation letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked luggage on Amtrak trains, adopted the gun lobby’s empty rhetoric about just “enforcing the laws on the books,” muzzled Cabinet members who expressed any support for stronger gun laws and failed to appoint permanent leadership at the agency that polices the gun industry. This White House even voiced no objection to people carrying guns near Presidential events
It is true that President Obama has not genuflected to the folks who run the NRA, and that the NRA is able to raise tons of money falsely attacking President Obama as somehow “anti-gun.” But the claims that the President, or anyone else with any semblance of power in our society, is planning to take away the guns of law-abiding citizens are the rantings of delusional conspiracy theorists, not a serious concern that Mitt Romney should be flirting with.
The legitimate debate we should be having regarding guns is how we balance the interest of law-abiding individuals to bear arms with the need for common sense gun laws that helps reduce gun violence and accidents, limit mass killings such as what happened with then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011, and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally unstable people. And with regards to that debate, the NRA has been completely absent as it has pursued a maniacal opposition to even the most sensible gun laws.
A good question for Mitt Romney is now that he has pledged his fealty to the NRA, how much of that organization’s agenda does he support? A recent article in the Guardian identified 10 areas where the NRA has worked to weaken or prevent common sense gun laws. The media should be asking whether Romney supports the NRA position on these laws. For example:
* Does Romney share the NRA’s opposition to legislation that would prohibit people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns?
* Does Romney share the NRA’s opposition to efforts to remove armor-piercing “cop-killer” bullets from the market?
* Does Romney support the NRA’s concealed carry reciprocity legislation, which tosses out supposed conservative support for states rights by requiring states to honor concealed weapons permits issued by other states?
* Does Romney share the NRA’s opposition to legislation that would close the gun show loophole, which allows unlicensed gun sellers to sell guns without performing background checks?
* Does Romney support the NRA’s “Stand Your Ground” laws that far too often give a green light to a “shoot first” approach to public confrontations?
* Does Romney support the NRA’s efforts to allow for the carrying of concealed weapons in bars, college campuses, the workplace, and restaurants?
* Does Romney support the NRA’s advocacy for legislation that would make it far more difficult for law enforcement to trace guns used in shootings or to revoke gun dealer licenses from corrupt dealers?
The simple reality is that the NRA is so focused on fighting non-existent conspiracies to take away law-abiding citizens’ guns that the organization has abdicated its responsibility to support common sense efforts to balance interests in public safety against interests in gun ownership. The question for voters is how beholden Romney would be to the NRA’s agenda and whether, as with so many other issue areas, the available evidence shows that the rabid reactionaries at the NRA would run the show in a Romney Administration.