Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Where is the NRA this time?

It’s different this time. Most of the 26 victims in the Newton, Ct., elementary school massacre were only 6 years old, and there’s no way to ignore that.

“Every American must know from this day forward nothing can ever be the same again,” said MSNBC television host and former lawmaker Joe Scarborough, adding that even Republicans like him must take another look at gun laws.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has earned top marks from the gun industry, said all ideas should be open for discussion.

Then there’s the National Rifle Association whose original purpose was to teach marksmanship and gun safety. Once, membership in the NRA was a right of passage for many boys and some girls. It was understood that guns could kill and that anyone who handled one should be trained to make sure that didn’t happen.

Why, then, is the NRA not taking the lead today in discussions about how to keep mentally disturbed individuals from owning or possessing guns? Why in 2011 did the NRA, in exchange for support for a law passed by Congress after the shootings at Virginia tech to make it harder for people with mental illness to get guns, agree only when Congress made it easier for the mentally ill to have their right to own guns restored?

 Shame on the NRA. This week, the shrill voices of critics that the NRA has regularly dismissed as coming from knee-jerk gun haters are really the weeping and wailing of the parents and grandparents who lost babies in Newtown.

It’s shameful that there’ve been no calls from the NRA to the White House offering to work together. It’s shameful that the NRA has remained silent in the face of this tragedy. Is the gun lobby staying beneath the radar today so that in a few weeks it can, once again, use bullying behavior backed by deep pockets and its millions of members to stop serious talk of how better federal gun laws might prevent future massacres?

Federal and state leaders must do more than offer lame excuses about why nothing can be done about the seemingly increasing levels of mayhem caused by mentally disturbed young men wielding weapons meant for combat, not first-grade classrooms.

They must offer more than up-by-your-bootstraps advice to families that find themselves alone in dealing with mentally ill family members with scant or non-existent public support. When politicians say the federal government and states cannot afford to allocate money for mental health services and outreach, they should be met with the photographs of the children who died in Newtown and ask, “Then, can we afford this?”

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