Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Monday, December 5, 2016

Gun Owners Supporting Sensible Reform Must Speak Out

Gun Owners Supporting Sensible Reform Must Speak Out

Bob Barker, the retired game-show host, has no idea why he ended up on the National Rifle Association’s enemies list. I know exactly why the NRA cited me.

I’ve spent years pushing for sensible gun-safety laws, including universal background checks, a ban on assault-type weapons and a waiting period before firearms purchases. I wasn’t surprised to learn that my name was among those on a surprisingly long and eclectic list of corporations, Hollywood celebrities, medical groups and even sports teams that the NRA has declared “anti-gun.”

By contrast, the 89-year-old Barker keeps a handgun on his bedside table and has never demanded more stringent gun laws, he told Time magazine. He has, however, protested a live pigeon-shoot in Pennsylvania and doesn’t think civilians need assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.

Of course, if you know anything about the NRA, you know that’s enough. Its extremism is dangerous, absurd and viciously dogmatic — dismissing anyone who doesn’t think civilians should own their own shoulder-fired rocket launchers as an “enemy.” It is a radical organization of paranoid conspiracy theorists who believe they might have to fight off their government with their assault rifles. Think of that goofy 1984 movie, Red Dawn, wherein a group of high school kids fights off a Soviet invasion, and you’ll get some idea of its mindset.

It’s easy enough to mock the NRA; its representatives are parodies in motion. But a look across the political and civic landscape suggests that much of the gun lobby’s extremism has invaded the broader culture, creating a deeply polarized view of firearms use that relies on stock stereotypes, not reality.

Take the silly kerfuffle that followed President Obama’s recent disclosure that he enjoys skeet shooting at Camp David. While it struck me as revealing of next-to-nothing, it set off rounds of debate, derision and ridicule on the political left as well as the right. The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart blasted Obama for pandering to gun owners, saying, “It’s not going to work.”

The Washington Post’s vaunted fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, even weighed in with this opinionated and oddly non-salient observation about Obama’s first campaign: “He certainly did not speak like a politician who had once used a firearm.” What kind of speaking would that have been?