My Open Letter to the NRA

IMG_0928Dear NRA.

About five years ago, 20 children and 6 six adults were killed by a Bushmaster XM 15-E2S and Glock 20SF.

More recently, 2 of America’s most deadly mass shootings occurred in the past 90 days. There were 58 killed in Las Vegas (10/1/17). Twenty-six more were executed in a church in Sunderland, Texas (11/5/17).

These shootings are so completely and mind-numbingly sad that hardly anyone knows what to say or do. I know your thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and their communities. That’s nice, but your thoughts and prayers are ineffective as deterrents to future firearm deaths. In this case, it’s not the thought that counts; action is what counts.

So I’m wondering, can we work together to Make America Rational (#MAR)?

Let’s start with data. There’s nothing like data as a foundation for rational thinking.

On those three days—Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and Sunderland—110 innocent people were gunned down for doing nothing but going to school, attending a concert, and being at a church service. Losing these lives is a massive tragedy. However, as you likely know, tracking lives lost from mass shootings is only the tip of the iceberg. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there are, on average, over 90 gun-related deaths EVERY DAY in America. That’s like Sandy Hook plus Las Vegas, every day of every week.

Why am I bothering with this open letter to you, the NRA? Everyone knows that open letters are pathetic acts of desperation. Likely, you won’t read this and if you do, you’ll tape it to a target and shoot holes in it. Forgive my cynicism. Cynicism is just a byproduct of desperation and powerlessness.

Most Americans know your position. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” As true as that statement is, it’s equally true that, “People use guns to kill people, and to kill themselves, and do so more effectively and efficiently than by any other means.”

Is any of what I’ve said arguable? Do you dispute the data? If not, then let’s engage in a rational discussion.

If you concede to these facts, I’ll give you the right to bear arms. Although it’s not as clear in the second amendment as you claim, let’s agree on the constitutionality that you (and I) have a right to bear arms.

This brings us a big sticking point. Even if we agree that (a) there’s a gun-related death problem in the U.S. and (b) we have a right to bear arms, our next step is to talk strategy and solutions, and this is where we likely disagree.

In the past, you’ve trotted out the same old and tired strategy. To address Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and Sunderland, you suggested that we need more guns in schools, in Vegas, and in church. My apologies for more cynicism here, but if you say (again) that we just need more guns to stop gun-related deaths, then I know you’re not willing to look at rational solutions. Think about Vegas. Would a well-armed group of concert attendees have helped that situation? We can’t know, but most rational people recognize that more guns in Vegas wouldn’t reduce gun-related deaths in Vegas. Why? Let me count the ways: Alcohol, gambling, suicide, and not even knowing where the bullets are coming from. More guns do not equal fewer gun-related deaths. If you go down that road, you’re clearly not rational about this and don’t care to be rational about this. If you go down that road, either someone has purchased your soul or you’re just out of your fucking mind.

I’m sorry for that last statement. I really am. It comes from sadness, frustration, and anger. In fact, as you read this, you’re probably thinking I’m out of my fucking mind. That’s the way polarization works. But I’m still hoping we can come together to think rationally together and engage in constructive problem-solving.  I’m hoping you can find compassion in your heart for the victims of senseless gun-related deaths. Let’s agree on another point: We should have compassion for gun victims and their families. I’m sure we can agree on that.

What if I offer even another concession? How about I say this: “Let’s not do gun control?” Are you with me on that? I think you are. So let’s move on.

Instead of gun control, let’s do gun safety. But please don’t you start with any of that imaginary slippery slope bullshit. Please don’t act as if banning bump stocks will inevitably lead to the confiscation of all guns. If you want to oppose and rebut gun safety with facts, that’s fine. What I’m hoping is that we can work together to get serious about gun safety.

One more piece of bullshit I don’t want to hear from you, or anyone. Don’t go blaming gun-related deaths on the so-called mentally ill. Paul Ryan did that after Sunderland and, I swear, he’s either ignorant or playing politics when he brings that up. People with mental disorder diagnoses are NOT more inclined to commit acts of gun violence toward others. The truth is that they’re more likely to be violent toward themselves, but that’s a different issue. Next thing you know, Paul Ryan will be blaming gun violence on children or some other marginalized group with minimal resources to fight back. If you want to go with victim-blaming as a substitute for learning about and addressing the problem of gun deaths, well, that’s a damn good definition of cowardice, so please don’t go there.

Instead of going with the slippery-slope theory and instead of blaming people with mental health problems, I’ve got an amazing offer for you to contemplate. This is my hook. I’ve developed a five-point secret plan for preserving gun rights, while improving gun safety in America. I want to share it with you and work toward our mutual interests.

But here’s the catch. My plan is secret. I want you to commit to TALKING ABOUT OUR MUTUAL INTERESTS before sharing it. For now, I’m just writing this pathetic open letter and asking for a reply. Will you please work with me (and others) to make America safer?

One thing I can tell you about my plan. It will take courage and compromise . . . so don’t bother writing back if you’re hung up on being cowards who can’t compromise. If that’s who you are, and you can’t join in on making America rational (and safer), then just keep holding onto your firearms until someone has to pry them out of your cold, dead hands.

Sorry again for the sarcasm and cynicism. Feel free to poke me back. What I’m asking is  for you to let go of your guns for a minute and grab onto this olive branch; that would be fabulous, because we’ve got important work to do together.

Sincerely yours,

John Sommers