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Now the NRA makes the same minor change and it gives us hope.I knew it was time to start looking for new employment when the company announced a new coffee policy.
It seems to provide free coffee to employees was unfair to non-coffee drinkers. So free coffee service would be discontinued. Employees wishing to drink coffee could bring their own.
I do recall with some fondness the gallows humor that followed. Perhaps the parking lot should be closed since free parking would be unfair to non-drivers. But everyone knew a company that could not afford coffee was in serious trouble.
The layoffs started soon after.
Years later, I was drinking a cup of coffee at work, thinking about my previous employer, when I heard about the National Rifle Association.
In my youth, the NRA was a sort of sports and hunting club. At least I saw it that way. I have a dim youthful memory of firing a 22-caliber rifle at the shooting range of Camp Babcock Hovey under the watchful eye of the Boy Scout instructor. He recited safety quotes from the NRA.
But somewhere along the line, they left the embrace of their members, most of whom, according to those who gather polling data, favor some form of gun safety regulation. In a cynical follow-the-money age, I have the lazy impression it involved finance. Less income came from membership dues, and more came from firearms manufacturers.
The NRA became a vehicle of sorts for a sort of mutual corporate coordination. It advanced a legislative agenda that would benefit the industry. And it enabled a sort of mutual enforcement. Member companies were encouraged to stay in unison, one with another.
When Smith & Wesson began to cooperate with gun safety regulators, the cries against them were loud and effective. And they came from the NRA.
One of the many transgressions of Smith & Wesson was their agreement to back research into firearm safety technology.
That the NRA had left its membership, that it had become an industry organization, was somewhat reinforced by informal opposition to the development of that same smart-gun technology. The use of biometric identification – fingerprints – to restrict a handgun to use by its owner would seem non-controversial. Keyless automobile technology is moving toward fingerprint identification. Why could that not work for firearms?
It fit the ideology and familiar slogans – individual freedom, 2nd Amendment honorifics. It would remove one incentive for gun regulation – the theft and criminal use of firearms. And it would remove that corollary incentive for home invasion – the theft of resalable guns. Of what use will a violent criminal find for a gun that cannot be used except by its owner?
But new technology, with the new competition that could be engendered among technology developers, met with fierce opposition. The official position of the NRA was one of indifference. But public figures generated background noise against new identification technology.
Consider one segment on NRA radio.
I’m not impressed by smart guns either. At least I’m not impressed, Charles, by the arguments that we’re hearing by the anti-gun advocates as to why smart guns are the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Host Cam Edwards was introducing Charles Cooke, the editor of National Review Online. In an article entitled “Smart Guns are Dumb,” Mr. Cooke had recently excoriated then Attorney General Eric Holder after his testimony before a congressional committee for, in part, saying this:
Vice President Biden and I had a meeting with a group of technology people and we talked about how guns can be made safer.
By making them either through fingerprint identification, the gun talks to a bracelet or something that you might wear, how guns can be used only by the person who is lawfully in possession of the weapon.
Most of Mr. Cooke’s response was philosophical. The government should stay out of private affairs. One rhetorical exception was this:
Holder’s faith in technology is touching. There currently exists a grand total of one “smart” gun — an expensive German product that comes only in a weak caliber that is wholly unsuitable for self-defense.
That the Attorney General favored research into and development of future technology may have escaped Mr. Cooke. Research by the US government into electronic communications had resulted in the internet, after all, and there had existed not even one URL page when they started.
Mr. Cooke’s best argument was that government ought to restrict itself to primal duties. As he said in that later interview:
First thing is, not to sound all constitutional and all, but this really is none of the government’s business and, as a general principle, the nature and the safety of the firearms that you have in your home, beyond basic regulation.
It should be remembered that the biggest gun safety advocates are, of course, the firearms companies themselves, because they don’t want to produce products that are dangerous.
But the basic safety of a firearm is very clearly not the role of government, especially when it comes to electronics and GPS tracking devices and so on and so forth.
I really struggle to imagine the founding fathers saying: Yes the federal government exists so that GPS tracking and disabling devices are on the nation’s farms.
I especially liked the part about the biggest gun safety advocates being gun manufacturers themselves.
Elizabeth MacBride, writing for Forbes Magazine, recently asked why gun manufacturers would not themselves develop higher-tech guns. Most in the industry told her the technology was unreliable and the market would be too small. She pushed industry spokespeople a little more, asking “why the market couldn’t be a solution to the question of how viable the technology is – consumers, after, accept risks that products will fail all the time.”
She could not obtain a coherent answer.
Under pressure, largely from the NRA, Smith & Wesson eventually backed off and rejoined the brotherhood.
What impresses me is the rhetorical excess that is routinely employed by the National Rifle Association. Immediately after the tragedy at the Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and staff were killed, Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA expressed his shock and dismay.
Just a week ago, we were all horrified by another terrible tragedy at an American school. Each and every member of the National Rifle Association mourns the loss of the innocent and continues to keep their families and that community in our prayers.
But he had a point to make.
As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain.
Without any apparent sense of irony, he did not waste time in exploiting the tragedy for political gain, identifying the exploiters by name:
Chris Murphy, Nancy Pelosi, and more
… explaining what they hate …
They hate individual freedom.
… and to what they are indifferent …
In the rush of calls for more government, they also revealed their true selves. The elites don’t care, not one wit about America’s school system.
The in-school murders play into a grand scheme:
But you know what? The shameful politicization of tragedy, it is a classic strategy, right out of the playbook of a poisonous movement.
Mr. LaPierre’s argument that anti-gun activists were eagerly exploiting the recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School began to collapse when those ruthless, uncaring exploiters turned out to be the very students who had been under fire.
There are more legitimate arguments suggested by more responsible gun owners.
One that makes emotional sense points to crime. Violent crime is decreasing, but fear of crime is amplified in our age of instant media. Anecdotal evidence is not the strongest evidence, but it is often most persuasive. Video often trumps dry statistical data.
And there is statistical evidence that many of us find compelling. From a cost and benefit point of view, the purchase of a gun might be a loser. It will be more likely to result in the death of the owner or a family member than an intruder or an on-the-street antagonist.
So if the issue was simply of safety, we would have cause to ponder. But a careful reading might reveal a more basic issue, at least for some.
Anecdotal evidence can be revealing because of what it reveals about us. It isn’t danger that seems to motivate at least some gun owners. It is helplessness in the face of danger.
If I simply do not want to die before my time, I would rely on police and common sense, imperfect as they are, to keep me alive. A gun would reduce my chances.
But if I do not want to die helpless and afraid, I might want to purchase a firearm and learn to use it with some measure of safety.
I do not need to demonize those who make a different choice, or who simply want the ability to make that choice.
The NRA, representing as they do, corporate manufacturers; presenting as they do, a subterranean fear of the enemy that surrounds us, is running into trouble. Membership dues are in decline. Corporate donations are in an even steeper decline. Their sponsors no longer seem to see them as effective agitators.
In a reminder of my younger days, they have announced a bit of bad news.
They will no longer provide coffee to those they employ.
Many thanks as always to our friends at FairandUnbalanced.