A reader writes:
Since I heard about the shooting in Newtown, I've been considering joining the NRA. I have no interest in owning a handgun and I'm against concealed weapons and am ambivalent about what the "right to bear arms" means.However, if 100,000 people like me joined the NRA, could we change the composition of their board of directors? Could we encourage the NRA to focus on gun safety, rather than on increased ownership? Could we "Tea Party" the NRA from the left?I believe there was a recent precedent in this sort of activism (from the right) when the Sierra Club was taken over by an anti-immigration group.Do you think this is possible?
I don't know. But day-after thoughts, extending a discussion here:
- I will henceforth and only talk about "gun safety" as a goal for America, as opposed to "gun control." I have no abstract interest in "controlling" someone else's ability to own a gun. I have a very powerful, direct, and legitimate interest in the consequences of others' gun ownership -- namely that we change America's outlier status as site of most of the world's mass shootings. No reasonable gun-owner can disagree with steps to make gun use safer and more responsible. This also shifts the discussion to the realm of the incremental, the feasible, and the effective.
- After the past few massacres, I've argued that the reality of our politics means that we'll "grieve" and "be shocked" for a few days, we'll put the flags to half-staff, then something else will come up, and nothing will change, and then we'll "grieve" and "be shocked" a few weeks later when the next group of students or parishoners or movie-goers or mall-shoppers is gunned down.
The case could be the exception. It is so hideous and unspeakable that it could be the shock that makes people think: this cannot go on. But the more precise way to state that thought is probably the one Greg Sargent used in a headline yesterday for the Washington Post:
Exactly. We don't know whether this massacre will be enough to shift the range of possible discussion about gun safety. But if it's not, it is hard to imagine what event could.
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James Fallows is a staff writer at The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Jimmy Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the 2018 book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which was a national best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.