Fanatics for Guns
The NRA's Viagra
What part of illegal does the National Rifle Association not understand?
In April 2006, the mayors of New York City and Boston hosted a summit for about a dozen of their peers to discuss ways to stem the trafficking of illegal guns in their cities. (Guns are involved in the deaths of 30,000 people a year in the country.) Mayors Against Illegal Guns then grew into a coalition of 450 mayors, 40 of them representing Florida cities -- including Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Tallahassee, Oak Hill and Ormond Beach.
This month, the coalition lost more than 50 members. The number of its participating mayors is down to 393 following a bullying campaign by the National Rifle Association to target participating mayors as "anti-gun" and equating all gun-control measures, including those targeting criminals, as infringing upon Second Amendment rights.
The NRA's claims are bogus. Its methods aren't. One of its targets is Ormond Beach Mayor Fred Costello, an avowed gun advocate who nevertheless sees the clear line between legal and illegal gun ownership -- as the NRA refuses to.
"If your mayor has joined [Mayors Against Illegal Guns], it is critical that he or she resign from this anti-gun group," the NRA told its members, listing the names of mayors in the coalition and including Web links to facilitate e-mailing them. Costello received his share of e-mails attempting to pressure him to quit the organization. He won't. But John Bush, mayor of Winter Springs, an Orlando suburb, was among those who just did. "The e-mails I received were very simple. They didn't tell me I wasn't an idiot or anything like that," Bush told Cam Edwards on the NRA's satellite news program, though the implications were clear: Resign from the organization or lose votes. He then asked the NRA "to put something out there that I had withdrawn."
It's a testament to the NRA's power that some elected mayors are begging it to clarify their status in the public's mind. It's also a testament to the NRA's power of misinformation that its fanatical distortion of reasonable and necessary gun laws (or proposed gun laws) still drives lawmakers' agenda.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns has no effective authority beyond the collective voice of its mayors. Nor is it "anti-gun." It is against the illegal sale and use of guns by criminals, and it supports legislation that makes it more difficult for criminals to evade gun laws. For example, it supports legislation that would close the so-called gun-show loophole, which enables criminals to buy guns from unlicensed gun dealers who don't run background checks. To the NRA, such a law would "regulate gun shows out of existence"--an absurd claim, considering that the overwhelming majority of gun-show dealers are licensed and conduct background checks. Gun shows still thrive. (DeLand just had one last weekend. Twenty-two more are scheduled just in Florida through the end of the year, including one more in DeLand in December.)
The coalition also supports a method of tracking gun sales to -- as Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood put it -- prevent the girlfriend of a convicted drug dealer from buying dozens of guns in different stores and cities undetected. To the NRA, any form of tracking would infringe on the buyer's, and presumably the drug dealer's, privacy.
The Second Amendment isn't in danger from any of these proposals. People's lives will continue to be, however, as the NRA does its part to make criminals' trades easier.