Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Response to a Newspaper Editorial

Our local paper, The Tri-City Herald, recently published this editorial on the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (S.649). I responded as follows:

I have several issues with your editorial.

First, the bill, Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (S.649), was not “defeated” in the Senate. It never got to a vote because of a threatened Republican filibuster that the bill’s proponents didn’t have enough votes to overcome.

Second, even if the NRA’s claim that it has 4.5 million members is true (and that’s debatable, as the Washington Post has pointed out), that’s under 1.5% of the US population, and if the 2010 elections were any gauge, the NRA’s real get-out-the-vote effectiveness may be overstated. The NRA spent $10.3 million in its unsuccessful effort to defeat President Obama. According to the Sunlight Foundation, in the 16 contested senate races that the NRA poured money into, the organization lost 13 of them. There’s no question however, that Republicans see the NRA as an essential part of their shrinking base, and are clearly willing to do anything to retain it.

Third, it’s true that the NRA is effective in “rallying the troops” to rail against lawmakers who dare to speak positively about any and all gun control measures, but all the hate-filled vitriol spewed by the fringe elements of the NRA mean little without the money the NRA and gun industry pour into congressional coffers. If the American people ever see the light and reform campaign financing, the NRA and its constituents will find themselves on the wrong end of the gun barrel.

Finally, parroting the NRA claim that expanded background checks wouldn’t have stopped the Newtown mass shooting, furthers the misconception that this oft repeated assertion by the NRA is true. In fact, it’s the logical fallacy of negative proof. The statement that expanding background checks won’t reduce gun violence in America, because there’s no proof the statement in false, takes the form X is true because there’s no proof X is false. And angels exist because there’s no proof they don’t.

Furthermore, every time there’s a mass shooting, in Aurora, CO, or Tucson, AZ, or Seattle, WA, etc., the NRA makes the same faulty assertion, and on that basis opposes any strengthening of gun control. That’s not just illogical, it’s stupid and cruel.

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