Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Wayne LaPierre is the NRA's Hit Man

The recent horrific mass shooting in Oregon has triggered another round of discussion about the need to change America's insane gun laws.  As noted in prior posts, most of the GOP sees no need for change - no doubt in large part because of the millions of dollars GOP candidates in particular receive from the NRA.  Research has shown that the real financial strength of the NRA comes from the gun manufacturers and not the hunters who allow themselves to be used as tools by the ever mercenary gun manufacturers and their hit man, Wayne LaPierre who strikes me as a totally amoral - if not immoral - individual who makes a plush living pushing policies that ultimately kill people.  A piece in Salon looks at LaPierre and the death that he and the NRA peddle.  Here are some highlights:

Although 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer pulled the trigger on the gun that killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Thursday, Wayne LaPierre, the fanatic executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, also has blood on his hands.

LaPierre, who has worked for the NRA since 1978 and served as its top official since 1991, is the organization’s hit man when it comes to intimidating elected officials to oppose any kind of sensible gun control laws, including a federal law requiring background checks on would-be gun buyers and a national registry of guns. LaPierre likes to fulminate about gun owners’ rights. But he’s been silent on the Oregon killings, just like he’s been silent after the murders of other innocent victims of America’s epidemic of gun violence.

For decades, the NRA has fought every effort to get Congress and states to adopt reasonable laws that would make it much less likely for people like Harper-Mercer to obtain a gun. The NRA even defends the right of Americans to carry concealed weapons in bars, churches, schools, universities, and elsewhere. This poses a huge threat to police and civilians alike.

Harper-Mercer was obviously an emotionally troubled man.  . . . . Although the murderer’s psychology and motives may be fascinating, it should not be the major focus. There are plenty of deranged people in the world, but in most well-off countries they can’t easily get their hands on a firearm.

Our nation’s weak gun laws allow felons, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill to arm themselves.

In 2013, there were 33,636 deaths from firearm violence in the United States, including 11,208 homicides (31 a day) and 21,175 suicides. Firearms were used in 69.6 percent of all homicides that year. Of course, many more people are injured — some seriously and permanently — by gun violence.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the medical cost of treating non-fatal gun injuries totaled $3.7 billion in 2005. The direct medical costs of treating fatal gun injuries combined with the economic damages of lost lives totaled $37 billion.

The Umpqua Community College incident was the 264th mass shooting in the country this year, according to the Washington Post, which defines a mass shooting as involving at least four people shot. In those incidents, 380 people were killed.  

The NRA has two knee-jerk responses to the epidemic of gun violence. The first is that the Second Amendment gives all Americans the right to possess guns of all kinds — not just hunting rifles but machine guns and semi-automatics. Efforts to restrict gun sales and ownership are, according to the NRA, an assault on our constitutional freedoms.

The second is the cliché that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” To the NRA, gun laws have nothing to do with the epidemic of gun-related killings. This contradicts research documenting that states with stronger gun laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

[S]ince the Newtown massacre, most new state laws have loosened, rather than tightened, gun restrictions, according to the Pew Research Center.

One of the NRA’s biggest victories occurred in 2003, when passed a law sponsored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a former Republican congressman from Kansas that makes it more difficult for public safety officials to shut down the illegal market in gun sales. A handful of gun dealers are responsible for most of the guns used in crimes and seized by law enforcement officials. 

Under LaPierre’s leadership, the NRA has not only dramatically expanded its ties to the gun manufacturers, but has also linked the NRA to the far right, including the Tea Party. LaPierre is a regular presence at gatherings of extreme right-wing groups, whose paranoid warnings about the threat of tyranny and Obama’s secret plan to confiscate all guns are meant to scare Americans into buying more guns and joining the NRA.

A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found that gun ownership is concentrated among older adults, rural residents, and whites, especially white Southerners. The NRA is able to mobilize a small but very rabid and vocal group of gun owners — as well as owners of gun shops — to attend rallies, write letters to newspapers and comments on blog sites, and contact elected officials.

Every American grieves for the families and friends of the people killed in Oregon this week. But until we tame the power of the NRA, we can expect more killings like this, a part of the deadly daily diet of murders throughout America committed by angry gun-toting people whose “freedom” to own weapons of mass destruction that the NRA defends.

The NRA must be defeated and, preferably, destroyed.   

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