When we were kids, the National Rifle Association was not the controversial political lobbying group it has become today. That’s yet another evolution we have witnessed as baby boomers in America. In this Boomer Opinion essay, BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes that if the NRA hadn’t gone too far before in its unrelenting and inflexible defense of the Second Amendment, it has, now.
Even after the Florida shooting, the National Rifle Association would have you believe that by fighting for more guns in schools, not less, it is actually protecting our children. Just as appalling, it asserts that those of us with the audacity to rate the NRA as one of the most poisonous, not protective, forces in America don’t understand “that patriotism and determined commitment to Constitutional freedoms are characteristics” of our nation. So says the NRA.
Well, I’ve got news for the nation’s most powerful gun lobby, which issued its detestable declaration after coming under fire following Florida: there are patriots outside its shortsighted ranks. I’m one of them. I’ll even go out on a limb and say, I might be more patriotic than some of the leading lights of the NRA. Their definition of patriotism is conformity. Mine is consciousness. Consciousness that we aren’t Americans because we are smarter than most anyone else, but simply because we are luckier. Which makes us freer, and arguably richer, with the world at our doorstep.
I’ve worked in more than 80 countries around the world. Most were in the Third World or in the Communist orbit. I’ve seen what it’s like to live with your prestigious job or your upscale apartment or your children’s choice school all dependent on your fealty to your government. We don’t. That alone has heightened my love for my country. That is patriotism.
I’ve landed on presidential trips in Air Force One in countries where people flocked to the airport— if they were even allowed to get that far— merely to cast their eyes on the Stars and Stripes proudly illuminated on the tail of the aircraft, the words “United States of America” boldly painted on its sides. They came, knowing full well that it was the closest they’d ever actually get to the land of the free and the home of the brave, and knowing, in some places, that there was risk in the mere act of showing up. It was enough to fill my eyes with tears and my chest with pride in our nation. That, is patriotism.
What nerve. And what gall.
According to the NRA, the American companies that have just severed their affiliations with it— translation: no more special rates for NRA members — are guilty of “a shameful display of political and civic cowardice.”
A shameful display? If anything, at least a dozen major American corporations and some smaller ones finally realize that their longtime relationships with the NRA are the shameful part. Companies running the gamut from airlines to rental cars, banks to life insurance, healthcare to software. Whether they ended their NRA ties because its inflexible fanaticism became too much to stomach or because they heard from so many angry customers, they moved the debate about its dangers from Main Street to Wall Street. Knowing of its lobbying power, cutting loose was an act of courage, not cowardice.
Likewise for Dick’s Sporting Goods and others like Walmart that followed. No more gun sales to anyone under 21. And in Dick’s case, no more assault-style weapons, period. It’s no panacea, but it probably will save some lives and at the very least it sounds like a message to the NRA to shove it!
The NRA’s response to the companies that eliminated its members’ discounts was to say that they “were trying to punish its law-abiding members who had nothing to do with the shooting.” Maybe not, at least maybe not directly. But in supporting the NRA’s pigheaded policies by the sheer act of paying their dues, members arguably are complicit.
So what nerve. What gall. And how dare the NRA.
Just last year, it characterized all who oppose its policies as “organized anarchy.” Anarchy, of course, means disorder, insurrection, a disobedience to authority. Is that how the NRA sees itself? As the ultimate authority? Maybe it’s time that it be cut down to size.
And why not? The most recent polling— post-Marjory Stoneman Douglas School— shows roughly two-thirds of all Americans support at least some form of gun control. Not the confiscation of citizens’ guns in America, just what we keep calling “sensible” gun control that might at least make it harder for bad guys to get their hands on guns. By the same two-to-one margin, Americans support a ban on so-called assault weapons, like the firearm that killed the 17 students and teachers in Florida.
Why, even President Trump, who once assured the NRA (which spent about $30 million supporting his campaign), “I am going to come through for you,” is feeling the heat and gently going up against the gun lobby’s myopic militants, floating ideas like raising the age to buy a semi-automatic, strengthening background checks, and banning bump stocks (like the one used last year to mow down 58 people in Las Vegas). Although with this president, these might or might not stick.
So how dare the NRA for purporting to speak in America’s best interest. Precisely and plainly put, it doesn’t. Most of us don’t run around feeling threatened by everything from home intruders to government agents. Most of us run around feeling thankful that we’re not.
And I’m more hopeful than before that our ranks will keep growing. There already were plenty of publicized cases of abuse against women long before the charges against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein opened the floodgates and created the movement that has come to be known as #MeToo. There also were many episodes of firearm violence against schoolchildren before Florida, yet because it was the last straw for some of the stricken school’s outspoken survivors, it has become the catalyst for another national movement now known as #BoycottNRA. Its goal is not to keep hunters from their sport or to end firearm safety programs which make gun ownership less dangerous. But if somehow it diminishes the pomposity and power of those who guide the National Rifle Association, then good riddance.
They’re not patriots. They’re purveyors of fear, crusading for more guns, not less, which makes life in America more dangerous, not less.
Check out Greg’s latest book, Life in the Wrong Lane.