Ken Plum: Never armed enough!
Much to my dismay last week I received in the mail an envelope with the return address of the National Rifle Association of America headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. I knew immediately it was not a letter admonishing me for regularly taking part in the vigil to end gun violence held in front of their office on the 14th of each month. No, the colorful envelope had two dozen pictures of various rifles, handguns, and what I call machine guns. I was urged to open the envelope to take part in the “exciting NRA sweepstakes.” With the usual disclaimer that I did not have to join the NRA in order to win, the flyer announced in a list with pictures that the first prize in the sweepstakes was “12 World-Class Firearms” including four pistols, four rifle/shotguns, and four other firearms that looked like military weapons to me. Second prize was nine such guns, and third prize was seven super firearms! If I did not choose to take the guns, I could substitute a “trophy bull elk hunt in New Mexico; a bison, bird, and deer hunt in North Dakota, or a black bear hunt in Ontario.” If I entered the sweepstakes by October 31 I would be “eligible for a chance to win a top-of-the-line LaRue Tactical Rifle and 7,200 rounds of ammo!”
Needless to say I will not be entering the sweepstakes although I was tempted to so that if I won I could have the guns melted down and turned into some peaceful art symbols. As disturbing to me as the military-style weapons offered as prizes was the language in the letter telling me why I should not just enter the sweepstakes but why I should join the NRA. Not a single mention was made that I might be a hobbyist, I might like hunting, I might be a marksman, etc. The entire pitch was about the threat of the government taking away people’s guns.
“NRA needs you as a fighting, card-carrying member more than ever before…That’s because the Second Amendment is the one freedom that gives you and me the power to protect every other freedom in our Bill of Rights…And because of gun owners like you, NRA has beaten back hundreds of attacks on our rights, from gun licensing to gun rationing, taxes and surtaxes on guns and ammo, ammo bans, gun bans, bans on gun shows and more…”
Despite the rhetoric in the mailer, the reality I see is drastically different than Mr. LaPierre described in his letter. The U.S. Congress is currently debating the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2017” which among other provisions would allow the use of armor-piercing bullets and ease the importation of foreign-made assault rifles. One of its very frightening provisions would allow the use of silencers on guns. Proponents argue that gun users’ ears can be harmed by the sound. What about the practice in industry of having ear plugs or ear coverings. Imagine the slaughter a terrorist could do with a silenced gun!
For some it seems that we are never armed enough. I believe that opinion is more of a threat to our society than are common-sense gun safety measures.
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.