Why Not Let The NRA Assume Leadership And Social Responsibility for Mass Shootings?
By Gail Vida Hamburg
This is a longer version of a forthcoming op-ed.
Each mass shooting in America plays out the same way. Media descends on the traumatized community to allow victims and witnesses to tell their wrenching stories. Gun absolutists and gun control advocates offer their seasoned, pickled defenses and solutions: guns don’t kill, people do; good guys with guns could have stopped the bad guys with guns; transparent backpacks; not one more, gun control; look at Europe, look at Australia. Politicians offer prayers and platitudes. Americans across the nation lay flowers and light candles. The NRA, viewed as the preeminent enabler of each carnage, lowers the shades, turns off the lights, closes shop, and goes fishing until the furor dies down.
Confronted with the reality of innocent Americans gunned down while going about their lives, Second Amendment literalists double down on their sacred rights. “Your son’s right to live does not supersede my right to bear arms,” wrote one American to Richard Martinez, a shattered father raging about the death of his only child, 20 year old Christoper, in the Isla Vista shooting.
“This is the price of freedom. The Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection. Even the loons,” wrote Bill O’Reilly after the Las Vegas killing of 58 Americans.
CNN Video: Lori Alhadeff, grieving mother of Alyssa Alhadeff.
After each mass shooting, gun control proponents trot out success stories of gun laws elsewhere: gun buybacks in Australia; gun restrictions in UK. Clutching blueprints of what works in Port Arthur, Tasmania and Dunblane, Scotland as a solution to mass shootings in America is to clutch straws. It dismisses history, British gun control that provoked the American Revolution, and the role of firearms to forge a nation.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Trying to persuade House and Senate representatives funded by the NRA to consider legislation is futile. If they weren’t moved when twenty angelic, adorable, upper middle class, six and seven year old children, were gunned down at Sandy Hook, Newton, all the emotional appeals in the world, even those by grieving fathers and mothers, aren’t going to motivate them into action.
Listen to what the NRA, their members, gun owners, and Second Amendment absolutists have said repeatedly—I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. But even in this intractability, there resides a sliver of an opportunity for the NRA to assume leadership and social responsibility on the matter of mass shootings.
After the Las Vegas shooting, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), whose constituents included the children of Sandy Hook, wrote in the Washington Post: “I find it important to remind myself that mass shootings happen almost nowhere else but the United States … I find consolation in this fact, because if the problem is particularly American, then the solution can be, too. Thus far, though, our response to regular mass slaughter has been, quite frankly, uniquely un-American. Our nation, in a short quarter-millennium, catapulted itself to global preeminence by solving the world’s greatest problems and exporting those solutions to the rest of the world. All American innovations to the great conundrums of the globe.”
“If the problem is particularly American, then the solution can be, too.” This is profound. Social innovation that features elements of collision and disruption could be the key to protecting innocent Americans from gunmen bent on mass shootings. Instead of demonizing the NRA and trying to convert it through shaming and emotional appeals, why not extend an invitation to this powerful organization to address the problem of mass shootings as their mission related work and their social responsibility? Why not ask them, the self proclaimed good guys with guns, to lead the effort on this uniquely American problem of mass shootings?
NRA could choreograph and produce ritualized mass shooting simulations (or real experiences after assisted suicide legislation is in place) in a regulated environment, with their own members participating in the event. American gun enthusiasts already participate in weekend warrior events here, and in attack tourism experiences in Israel. For $115 to $250, tourists at Israel’s fantasy anti-terrorism camps participate in simulated suicide bombing and knife attack experiences, sniper tournaments, and adrenaline pumping encounters with attack dogs. NRA could forge partnerships with Hollywood, the consummate purveyor of gun glam, to stage and film the events for use in their productions, thus guaranteeing the gunmen, the notoriety they desire.
Purists’ either/or propositions on mass shootings have failed for several decades. American ingenuity, innovation, and principles of business could be harnessed to stop this problem that overwhelmingly impacts the lives of innocents who reject the gun culture. It would allow gun lovers to reiterate their articles of faith—freedom to own, use, and enjoy guns. At the same time, the NRA would be performing an invaluable public service. Their members would be the good guys with guns carrying out the mission of the NRA. They would be flame keepers of the Second Amendment for themselves, and protectors of the Declaration of Independence for their fellow Americans who insist on their unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Gail Vida Hamburg is the author of Liberty Landing— a love letter to the American Experiment, which was a 2016 finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.