Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gun Violence? Follow the Money



The President has announced some modest measures to reduce gun violence.  States like New York, Colorado and Maryland are not waiting, enacting state laws against military-type assault weapons, large magazines and requiring registration for all gun sales.  In California, weapons buy-back programs are taking thousands of guns off the streets.

Meanwhile, the NRA targets the President's daughters and claims to represent the rights of gun owners.  But do they?  Most of the NRA's funding comes not from membership dues but from the gun industry directly.  They are an industry advocacy group masquerading as a gun owners' group.  The majority of the NRA's governing board are representatives of gun manufacturers and importers.  And what has the NRA done for the industry lately?

The firearms industry is exempt from tort liability for its actions and products.  Every other business in the US is liable for the safety of its products and can be sued.  Except for the most dangerous of all industries.
The ATF, the agency created to oversee firearms, has been crippled by repeated legislation written by the NRA such as not allowing it to require dealers maintain gun inventories, prohibiting more than one inspection per year of dealers, and a special law requiring that the ATF head be approved by Congress (a position that has been vacant for seven years).  It also cannot track gun sales or maintain data on gun owners or dealers. (See Jon Stewart's piece on this here.)

Rank and file NRA members have no say in the political actions of the organization.  Only the board -- which represents the gun industry -- can decide which legislation to push, how to spend campaign contributions or what the positions of the NRA will be.

Which leaves me.  What am I going to do about gun violence?  I'll take my fight where the money is.  From today forward, I will be notifying every local department store, sporting goods store or drug store selling guns that I will no longer shop in their establishment.  It will be tough.  I have always bought prescriptions from the Rogue River Pharmacy (which sells guns) and most of my groceries and household goods from Fred Meyer (which also does).  I've never been a Walmart shopper but I will be returning my 40-year old membership card to Bi-Mart.

Yesterday, I went in search of a face mask for keeping the chill off while cycling on these winter mornings..  I did not go to Big Five, Sports Authority or Blackbird.  All of them are agents of the gun industry.  Instead, I found a lovely place called Northwest Outdoor Store in Medford.  My first question upon entering the store:  Do you sell guns?  I made it clear that mattered to me.  I am done shopping anywhere that does business with and therefore supports the firearms industry.

Here is my letter to Fred Meyer:

Dear Fred Meyer Management:

I have been a loyal customer of yours since moving to Oregon almost 40 years ago. Since I buy most of my groceries at Fred Meyer as well as most household goods, some clothing, toys and electronics, I would estimate that I have spent about $500 per month in your store and over $200,000 since I began shopping there.  I have appreciated the selection, the cleanliness and the quality of your produce and fresh fish especially.

I will miss doing business with you.  The stranglehold the firearms industry has on our country can no longer be tolerated.  Too often, that industry through its lobbying arm, the NRA, has obstructed any common sense ability to regulate gun violence.  Neither the manufacturers nor you as a gun dealer are even subject to the tort liability every other industry must consider in developing ever-safer products.

Until your store ceases its relationship with the gun industry by cancelling gun sales, I cannot shop there in good conscience.  I am sharing my concerns with others and hope you will take the responsible action and immediately cancel your relationship with the gun industry.
Feel free to copy the letter, adapt it to your own situation and post it to any retailer you also will no longer support.  Follow the money.

The NRA and their industry directors would have you believe I hate gun owners.  I not only do not hate them, I am one.  With just 20% of the gun owners holding 65% of the guns in this country, it's not the  80% that includes me and most of my neighbors I'm concerned about.  It's the hoarders, those with a perverse fascination with weaponry.  As a former special education director, I was familiar with the DSM-IV, the psychiatric reference for mental illnesses.  Fascination with weapons features in several disorders.  If the NRA wants to blame the mentally ill for all the gun violence, they will need to include many of their best customers in that category. 

Not one more dollar from my household will support that industry.


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