Mr. LaPierre, Cut the Sophistry

Wayne LaPierre
Executive Vice President and CEO
National Rifle Association
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, Virginia 22030

Dear Mr. LaPierre:

When you respond to the latest horrific mass shooting in the United States, the one in south Florida, would you kindly respond in an intellectually honest manner. Because, Mr. LaPierre, the truth is, as you must know, the only valid excuse for allowing unfettered gun ownership in the United States, and the correspondingly sickening number of deaths by firearms, is that the death of children and others is the price you are willing to pay for owning an assault rifle. In other words, the only intellectually rigorous argument you can make is that protecting a misconstrued reading of the Second Amendment is worth the deaths of thousands of Americans every year.

The rest is pure sophistry.

Weapons legally available in the United States.

I know. You gun advocates are fond of the saying, “Guns don’t kill people — people kill people.” True, guns do not fire by themselves, but Americans own more guns than the people of any other nation, and the United States has more gun deaths than any other developed nation — by far. The United States has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, yet Americans possess 42 percent of the civilian-owned guns around the world. Australia has 1.4 deaths by firearm per one-million people annually; New Zealand – 1.6; Germany – 1.9; Austria – 2.2; Denmark – 2.7; The Netherlands – 3.3; Sweden – 4.1; Finland – 4.5; Ireland – 4.8; and, Canada – 5.1. In the United States, 29.7 out of every million people will die of gun-related deaths this year.

I know correlation is not causation, but only a fool would ignore such overwhelming evidence. The conclusion is obvious: The United States is an outlier on gun violence because there are way more guns in the United States than in any other developed country in the world. The prevalence of guns is the reason why the United States has 20 times the homicide rate of Australia, nearly 16 times the rate of Germany, and almost six times the rate of Canada.

Some of the thousands of guns bought by the Australian government from its citizens.

The presence of Australia at the head of the list with the fewest gun fatalities should be instructive, Mr. LaPierre. It is frequently said that the ownership of guns is a legacy of the American frontier experience. It is true, of course, that gun-owning Americans helped tame the Wild West (which was wild because of the prevalence of guns, but that is another story). But, Australia is another huge country with much empty space, and its history is much different (and, it was settled by convicts, I might add). In 1996, a gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania. The Australian government banned semi-automatic and automatic weapons and instituted a buy-back program for the banned guns. The result: No mass shootings in Australia and the country has the fewest deaths from gun violence per capita in the world. 

Opponents of gun control frequently says the problem is the mentally ill. “We don’t go around shooting people, the sick people do. They need to be fixed,” said one gun owner after the Sandy Hook massacre at a Connecticut school. Psychologists dispute that assertion, maintaining that fewer than one percent of all gun-related homicides are committed by people with serious mental illness. And, even if the assumption were true, the fact is that the mentally ill, like all Americans, have almost unchecked and unlimited access to guns, which is not true of the mentally ill elsewhere. 

Mr. LaPierre, you also claim that a homicidal person will find other means to kill if guns are banned. True, an angry spouse may kill his or her partner with a knife, but I defy you to explain how a knife-wielding assailant could slay 58 people, the number killed by Stephen Paddock last October in Las Vegas.

And, Mr. LaPierre, there is this argument you are fond of making, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I find it hard to imagine that untrained civilians could do what trained professionals find difficult: Stopping an active shooter in an unplanned, chaotic scene. Most police organizations believe armed civilians in an active shooting situation would only cause more casualties. 

Then, Mr. LaPierre, there is the Second Amendment. I have written on this subject at length, but let me say here, briefly, that for most of American history, the courts interpreted the Second Amendment as a protection for the right “to keep and bear Arms” for military purposes. The interpretation of the Second Amendment by the National Rifle Association that even one tiny restriction on guns would be a slippery slope to eventual confiscation is a new construct with little historical backing. 

Students being led out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

No child, no American, should go through what Ryan Kadel, a 17-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School went through this week. “People were texting, trying to find out what was going on. Kids were crying; some people were freaking out,” Ryan said. “I’m kind of surprised it happened here, but I’m not really shocked. School shootings happen all the time, and then the news just forgets about them.”

No, Mr. LaPierre, I will not forget about the school shootings. And, I will insist that you display, for once, intellectual honesty and admit that the only defense for your absolutist stance on guns is that you are willing for young Ryan to be endangered — and have 17 of his classmates die — so you can own an arsenal of weapons. The rest is, as I said, pure sophistry.


Judah Ginsberg,
Father, Husband, Neighbor, Citizen

Posted February 16, 2018

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