Thursday, 27 June 2013 00:00
Protesters with crude handmade signs occupied the Jericho Turnpike corners of Willis Avenue and Mineola Boulevard on a recent Saturday. One of their hand-lettered posters made an insulting anatomical reference to a local elected official. I asked the protesters what they were protesting, and they responded that they were protesting the “SAFE Act.” I asked what was wrong with the SAFE act, and they responded “Everything!” claiming that it took away their right to own guns. One apparent leader of the group asked why I was asking these questions, and I responded that I believed they had been given incorrect information, perhaps some of the half-truths and outright misinformation distributed by gun manufacturers through lobbyists such as the National Rifle Association. A younger protester began to yell at me that it “they” were taking away his constitutional right to own guns, but fortunately the more mature fellow calmed him and continued the discussion with me. I asked if they were aware that there was nothing in the SAFE Act that limited the number of guns they could own, as long as they were not convicted felons or adjudicated mentally ill. At that point, the other protesters started raising their voices, unfortunately interrupting the intelligent discussion I was having with their colleague. I wished them a nice day and moved on.
Misinformation is peddled to gullible people—and I believe this is done intentionally by gun manufacturers through their lobbyists. For example, one of the protesters told me that the Newtown shooter left his “AR-15” in the trunk of his car and executed children with handguns. In fact, police records show that 154 bullets in the massacre were fired from a Bushmaster XN-15-ES2 semi-automatic rifle, and one bullet was fired from a Glock handgun, which was apparently the suicide shot. A shotgun was later found in the shooter’s vehicle.
Sadly, this propaganda creates a situation where people are led to believe that it is patriotic to oppose any efforts to reduce gun violence.
Also sadly, on the day before my conversation with these protestors, it appears that a young man in California, upset about his parents’ divorce, killed his father and brother and went on a shooting rampage, killing three others whose misfortune it was to leave their homes to run errands or attend school. There is no indication that this disturbed individual would not have become violent even without access to guns, but surely a gun made it much easier for him to kill five people in a short time when he apparently became enraged.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a politically active registered Republican, and after gun violence affected me personally I decided to become educated, and then involved, in preventing gun violence. I am sending a copy of this letter and a contribution to the campaign of the elected official named by the protesters. My intent is to offset any negative impact that these uninformed persons may have inflicted. I am proud to live in a country where people are free to express their views. I am embarrassed that some people use that right for misinformation, insults and vitriol. And I am sad that our country leads the civilized world in gun violence.