Gun Laws & Legislation

NRA’s Chris Cox: Occasionally they get it

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Chris Cox
Executive Director, NRA's Institute for Legislative Action
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      Chris Cox

      Chris W. Cox is executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) and serves as the organization’s chief lobbyist.

By Chris Cox, Executive Director NRA-ILA 

One of the things I have learned during my time with NRA is that when it comes to the mainstream media, they rarely get it right. In fact, it seems at times that they rarely “get it” at all.

A fundamental lack of understanding about firearms and gun owners prevails in news stories and editorials. Some “journalists,” frankly, don’t care to get it right and report on the issue only in the context of a pre-existing anti-gun agenda. Thus, it’s a noteworthy occasion when someone files an accurate, relatively unbiased report.

A few months ago, a story by Paul Barrett was published in Businessweek entitled, “Why Gun Control Is Basically Dead.” That story attempted to explain why gun control efforts have largely stalled, despite the fact that gun control proponents consider new restrictions “inevitable.” Surprisingly, Barrett got it somewhat right.

We have been reporting for years that violent crime is down significantly over the past two decades. While most of the media fail to report this simple fact—or worse, give the impression that violent crime is on the rise—Barrett accurately reported that it is down 50 percent since 1993. Barrett also correctly pointed out one of the key fallacies of the anti-gun argument, “Apart from politics, dispassionate observers must question the simplistic liberal slogan that more guns equals more crime. The U.S. has seen a two-decade period during which private gun ownership has continued to soar (some 300 million firearms are now in civilian hands), while crime has diminished.”

This simple truth escapes media coverage but is at the core of why gun owners know that gun control is not the answer to the violent crime that still occurs. Further, Barrett recognized what gun owners already realize about recent tragedies. “Newtown, and Aurora before it, were not ordinary instances of violent crime,” Barrett writes. “Mass shootings by deranged young men present a special case, one painfully disconnected from the gun control proposals these atrocities inspire.” In this vein, Barrett correctly described the ineffectiveness of expanded or universal background checks by noting that, “Mass murderers prepare meticulously and usually acquire their weapons legally.”

Polls have long established that a majority of Americans support the right to bear arms. This fact is lost on the gun control community and Barrett describes how little the anti-gun types understand how dear gun owners, and many other Americans, hold our fundamental right to arms. This lack of understanding is shared by most in the media. It is why they are always surprised when gun legislation is defeated, or when the electorate rises and takes action in response to anti-gun legislation, as the voters did in Colorado this past fall when they recalled two state senators and forced another to resign. As Barrett wrote, “Gun control advocates often appear not to appreciate that their country, for better or worse, has a widespread and deeply rooted gun subculture that isn’t going away. No lesser body than the Supreme Court, in decisions issued as recently as 2008 and 2010, has interpreted the Constitution as enshrining that reality.”

Perhaps the most important element of Barrett’s article was his recognition that the real solution to the issues surrounding high-profile shootings is not simply more gun laws. According to Barrett, activists and policymakers should refocus on “dangerously mentally ill people” and “identify and replicate the policies that have contributed to the drop in ordinary violent crime.” Yet as he noted, reforming a broken mental health system “is a far more daunting challenge than holding an anti-gun rally.”

It is ironic that Barrett’s article appeared in Businessweek, owned by Bloomberg LP, the multi-billion dollar empire that is majority-owned by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the country’s most prolific anti-gun activist. If only Bloomberg had the insight and understanding that Barrett displayed, he might actually be able to contribute to finding real solutions rather than simply vilifying gun owners and attacking basic rights.

Barrett quoted one anti-gun activist as claiming that she is engaged in a “war for the culture” and that firearms symbolize “an America she doesn’t ‘recognize.’”  This, unfortunately, may be one of the article’s most telling points. It’s also the reason why the facts haven’t swayed gun control ideologues and why we must be prepared to continue the fight through the 2014 midterm elections and well into the future.

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Chris Cox is the Executive Director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. His column appears in America’s 1st Freedom,  American Rifleman and American Hunter.  Join the NRA and receive a $10 discount on your annual membership and get America’s 1st Freedom, American Rifleman or American Hunter delivered to your door – click here.