By Murray Holman et al.
An important point often lost in the debate between gun safety and pro-gun advocates is who exactly each group represents. Gun safety groups, mainly concerned with curbing gun violence, tend to represent individuals and families who, through gun-related homicide, accident or suicide, have suffered a loss.
Political progressives who feel that our society too often encounters gun-related violence belong in these groups. When it comes to pro-gun advocates, the leadership of the National Rifle Association is always out front, providing talking points to its supporters and wielding an inordinate amount of power over the majority of Congress.
Does the leadership of the NRA represent the views of the majority of its members? Looking at many unbiased surveys on background checks, the clear answer is no.
A majority of NRA members see nothing wrong with stronger, more sensible, laws that would include background checks and limits on who can carry a military-style weapon. And three out of four NRA members support background checks for all gun purchases.
Why is it that in the debate about responsible gun laws that will reduce accidental, homicidal or suicidal deaths by guns, the voices of the reasonable middle are not heard? Is it because our media prefer a polarized debate? Or is it because reasonable people get turned off by noise and rhetoric and keep out of the debate?
It’s time to change the scope and terms of the debate on guns in New York.
We are fortunate to have one of the most reasonable, comprehensive and responsible gun laws in the nation, the NY SAFE Act. The act has been found constitutional by both federal and state courts and is supported by two-thirds of New Yorkers, according to a Siena College poll. Despite that, and regardless of the additional support by police chiefs and many law enforcement officers – experts who know something about guns and gun violence – the act has come under persistent attack by the corporate gun lobby. This includes NRA leaders and smaller pro-gun groups that repeat the corporate gun lobby’s talking points, wrongly equating personal liberty with the right to have access to any gun at all times.
Responsible and law-abiding gun owners in New York State, the reasonable middle, should step up and declare their support for the SAFE Act and tell the NRA leadership that it does not represent them.
Murray Holman is chairman of Stop the Violence Coalition. He wrote this with Paul McQuillen, Western New York coordinator of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence; Victoria B. Ross, a peaceful conflict resolution consultant with the Western New York Peace Center; and Kent Clulow of Orchard Park and Peter Leyonmark of Hamburg, both former members of the National Rifle Association.