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Column

NRA stokes paranoia to beat back change

We should all be thoroughly disgusted with the lack of representation and leadership that was demonstrated by the Republican derailment of gun legislation that would have created a federal universal background check system that would plug a gaping loophole that allows criminals and insane people to purchase guns over the Internet and at gun shows.

A recent poll indicated that Americans support these background checks by a whopping margin of 91 percent to 8 percent. Even in households with guns, the margin was an overwhelming 88 percent to 11 percent.

Current Federal law prohibits selling guns to felons or the mentally ill and background checks are the only way to enforce it. Who could possibly oppose universal background checks besides criminals and the insane? The political force that is responsible for this blatant deliberate government dysfunction is the NRA, which has approximately 4.5 million members, a little less than one percent of the U.S. population. Support even within the NRA for background checks is very high, so who does the NRA actually represent: gun manufacturers. To understand this issue you need to follow the money.

Gun manufacturers saw a 42 percent drop in gun sales during the Clinton administration when crime dropped sharply every year. Nothing scares the NRA more than a sense of calm and safety in the public, because it reduces gun sales. Every action of the current NRA leadership is directed at selling more and more and more guns. Their reaction to the Newtown massacre was to advocate policies that boost gun sales, e.g., arming teachers, and then go into denial. The NRA started its existence in the 19th century as a benevolent organization that saved lives by teaching gun safety, but since then it has morphed into a ruthless political monster that plays gun issues like a Stradivarius to increase gun sales. Period.

The NRA, despite it’s small poorly represented constituency, is a very powerful political force that uses scare tactics, deception, misinformation and blatant lies to turn elections on a dime and most politicians are scared to death of them. Our own senator Kelley Ayotte is one.

Imagine a US map that starts with Maine, then head south to NH, VT, NY, NJ, MA, RI, CT, MD, PA, DE, WV, and Virginia. Every senator in those states stood up for the families of slaughtered children of Newtown Conn., and voted for universal background checks. There were no gun restrictions in the bill, just a requirement that all gun sales undergo a background check. There was even some latitude for transferring a gun within a family. It had nothing to do with gun registration, despite insinuations to the contrary. Gun registration has become the new death panel. Brilliant.

Sen. Ayotte abandoned good New England common sense and sided with the right wing extremist element of the U.S. Senate. Even Sen. John McCain voted for universal background checks, but not Sen. Ayotte. New Hampshire has a thriving gun manufacturing business, and the unfounded paranoia that is stoked by the NRA can only make it better. I have no problem with sensible gun ownership. I grew up on a farm and my family owned several guns that were used to keep predators in check. And we hunted rabbits and pheasants to put food on our table. But, when the gun industry’s representative, the NRA, puts profits before safety, then it’s time for the overwhelming majority of citizens to see the elephant in the room. Don’t forget this. Spread the word. And work hard to elect people who will represent you if you want to see an end to senseless carnage in your lifetime.

John Zavgren lives in Wilton.

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