Pity the Poor Gun Lobby
By GAIL COLLINS
Published: March 21, 2012
There is nothing so dangerous as a lobbying organization that’s running out of stuff to lobby about.
Earl Wilson/The New York Times
I am thinking in particular of the National Rifle Association. These people are really in desperate straits. The state legislatures are almost all in session, but some of them have already pushed the gun-owner-rights issue about as far as it can go. You can only legalize carrying a concealed weapon in church once.
This year, in search of new worlds to conquer — or at least to arm — a couple of states are giving serious attention to bills that would allow gun owners to carry their concealed weapons in places like day-care centers and school buses.
People, do you think there is a loud public outcry for more guns on school buses? I truly believe that this is all the product of a desperate N.R.A., trying to show its base that there are still lots of new battles to be won.
“I subscribe 100 percent to that theory,” said Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a group that is never going to suffer from a problem of not having anything left to work on.
Why, other than a frantic search for ways to show your gun bona fides, would legislators pass something like the Stand Your Ground law? As the whole country learned this week, 21 states now have laws allowing people to shoot anyone they feel is putting them in imminent physical danger, whether they’re at home, in a bar or on the street being hassled by an irritating panhandler. It was thanks to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law that a crime-watch volunteer was not arrested after he fatally shot an African-American teenager with no criminal record — and, as far as we can tell so far, no intent to do anything more dangerous than carrying home a bag of Skittles.
“Florida is the N.R.A. utopia,” said Malte. “Make it as easy as possible to carry a loaded gun in public, virtually anywhere. And then instill the mentality that you can shoot first, ask questions later.”
The N.R.A. did not respond to my request for comment, although, to be fair, they’ve been having a pretty busy week.
This is big business. The N.R.A. takes in more than $200 million a year, which is a heck of a lot more than it made back in the old days, when its principal activity was running marksmanship classes. A considerable chunk of the cash comes from gun manufacturers and gun sellers. I cannot help but think that this was the constituency its lobbyists had in mind when they recently pushed Virginia to repeal its one-handgun-a-month purchase law. According to a recent poll, two-thirds of the residents of the state liked the law just fine. However, it did pose a considerable hardship for hard-working small businessmen involved in the transport of large quantities of weaponry up the East Coast to drug gangs in Philadelphia and New York City.
But guns-on-campus bills are perhaps the best proof that success is driving the N.R.A. to levels of craziness it never would have contemplated in the past.
Arizona, which has already passed absolutely every other law the anti-gun-violence crowd opposes, is currently considering a bill making it legal to carry guns on the campuses of public colleges and universities. The State Board of Regents estimates that administering it would cost the equivalent of 25 full-time faculty positions a year.
The legislation, which sailed through last time around only to be vetoed by the governor, currently seems to be stalled. If you are a person so intensely optimistic that you find this to be good news, I salute you. Perhaps you should consider a career in the gun control lobbying field.
Since no amount of gun-related tragedy seems sufficient to get state lawmakers to dial back on their firearms-friendly laws, we need to find a different approach, or face a future in which citizens of some states are required to carry a weapon with them at all times except when bathing.
I am thinking that the best solution for all concerned would be a strict national gun-control law that makes it very difficult to get a concealed weapons permit, permits gun dealers to sell only one handgun per individual per year, and makes it illegal for even permit holders to keep handguns anywhere but their home, store or car glove compartment unless they are employed in the security business.
The N.R.A. would have a whole new lease on life, and the donations from the gun industry would come flooding in. Legislators in red states would be kept out of other mischief for a decade, while they devoted their entire careers to passing new gun-friendly laws. And it’s very possible that the purple states would find that they like the new order of things just fine. Everybody wins!
No need to thank me. It’s the least I could do for the school bus drivers.