The NRA’s Never-Ending Campaign to Lose My Support

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The New York Times writes today about the NRA’s efforts to pass laws, like Florida’s Stand Your Ground legislation, that give gun owners ever-expanding rights:

The laws, which expand beyond the home the places where a person does not have a duty to retreat when threatened and increases protection from criminal prosecution and civil liability, vary in their specifics and in their scope. But all contain elements of the 2005 Florida statute that made it difficult to immediately arrest Mr. Zimmerman, who has claimed he shot Mr. Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense.

Critics see the laws as part of a national campaign by the National Rifle Association, which began gathering on Thursday for its annual meeting in St. Louis, to push back against limits on gun ownership and use….The success of the campaign is reflected in the rapid spread of expanded self-defense laws as well as laws that legalize the carrying of concealed weapons — only one state, Illinois, and the District of Columbia now ban that practice, compared with 19 states in 1981. Bills pending in several states that would allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses, in churches, in bars or other at sites would further weaken restrictions, as would either of two federal bills, now in the Senate, that would require that a concealed carry permit granted by any state be honored in all other states.

Guns are not one of my hot buttons. I’m neither especially pro-gun nor anti-gun. On the one hand, I believe that (like it or not) the Second Amendment does provide a personal right to gun ownership. I’ve also long thought it would be interesting to learn how to handle and shoot a handgun. Maybe someday I will. On the other hand, I’m 53 and I haven’t done it yet, which suggests a pretty low level of interest.

That said, the NRA sure seems bound and determined to make me more anti-gun with every passing day. After the Supreme Court decisions in Heller and McDonald, which upheld a personal, constitutional right to bear arms, I thought maybe the gun wars would settle down a bit. They wouldn’t go away, since plenty of people still opposed Heller and lots of local municipalities were still determined to regulate handgun use tightly. But I figured this is where the fight would turn: to court cases between city councils and the NRA over how to implement Heller at a local level. The old hysteria about the government coming to take away your guns would go away because the Supreme Court had very firmly said that they couldn’t.

Needless to say, that’s not what happened. Over the past decade, and accelerating after the Heller decision was handed down, the NRA has gotten almost insanely aggressive. The government is still coming to take away your guns. (Aided by the UN, natch.) And gun owners, not satisfied that the Supreme Court has upheld their basic Second Amendment rights, have gone on a tear, fighting even modest registration and safety requirements and insisting on the expansion of shall-issue laws, concealed carry laws, unconcealed carry laws, stand your ground laws, and a bevy of laws that would all but remove the right of private property owners to ban guns on their own premises. I mean, guns in bars! WTF? Can you even imagine a worse place for guns than a bar?

So….I feel like I’m slowly but surely becoming more anti-gun over time. I still don’t want to take away anybody’s guns. I hope you handle them safely, but that’s about the extent of my concern.

But do I really want squadlets of NRA zealots with chips on their shoulder pretending that we live in the Old West and parading around the mall with guns in shoulder holsters just to prove that they can? Not really. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. We don’t live in the Old West. Keep your guns at home or at the range. Shoot only as a last resort, and don’t feel like the law should protect you if you gun someone down just because he took a swing at you on your front lawn. Enough’s enough, folks. It’s time to declare victory and go home.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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