When I was younger, my dad and I were National Rifle Association members, and I shot small-bore competition matches at a local range.
Those times are very special in my memory. But that was in the 1950s and 1960s. In those days, the NRA was a community and family-oriented organization which focused on teaching firearm and hunting safety and on promoting responsible participation in shooting sports.
Now it seems that the NRA — at least the public persona of the organization— has become a nearly fanatical political organization that conflates all gun ownership, responsible or not, with God and patriotism. And it reduces all political discourse to a myopic conviction that the Second Amendment is the actual purpose of the Constitution.
I am a former Army major and a gun owner, but I am now almost embarrassed to admit that I ever was an NRA member. It is very clear to me that our society needs to put at least as much oversight on owning and using a semi-automatic rifle or handgun as we do on owning and driving a car.
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Numerous polls say that most Americans, even many ground-level NRA members, feel the same way. I still like to think that the majority of gun owners do not feel it necessary to prove something by carrying an AR 15 or AK 47 to McDonald’s or packing heat to school or church.
Sadly, it is clear that nothing will happen as long as politicians at all levels lack the courage to take the most reasonable steps in opposition to the NRA and the organization’s perceived power and real money.
The recent failure to address even the issue of bump-stocks following the Las Vegas massacre is proof enough of this cowardice.
But maybe part of breaking this gridlock of fear on our politics and finding a future of gun ownership in this country that balances individual rights with community responsibilities might still lie within the NRA.
The possibility for change could lie in a decision by the members of the NRA of my generation who still remember a different NRA and those of subsequent generations who know something is wrong to vote.
Vote either to throw out the current NRA leadership or vote to leave the NRA and break its aura of invincibility. Maybe that could have more effect than the continuing parade of hand-wringing, stylized condolences and rote prayers from politicians.
David L. Arnold of Versailles is a retired college administrator.