The National Rifle Association held a large meeting in Rosslyn this weekend and, being a member, I went for part of it.
Any time I go near the NRA, I’m struck by one fact: These folk are, from a crime writer’s point of view, the most deadeningly dull, boring, unproductive people on earth. As individuals they’re like anyone else, variegated, of both sexes and all ages, from every job and walk of life. Crime-wise, they’re a bust. I doubt that in aggregate, even with lying and exaggeration and resume-inflation, they could muster a criminal record to match a good weekend with Ted Kennedy.
They’re not just law-abiding. They support the law, disapprove strenuously of crime, believe in personal responsibility, and believe (I don’t think I’m misrepresenting them) that criminals ought to be in jail.
Which, if you think about it, is interesting. If you were to believe the mainstream media, you would get the impression that the NRA were, if not criminals themselves, at least somehow responsible for crime — aiders and abettors perhaps. They’re not. They’re as dangerous as Rotarians.
So why the enormous hostility in some quarters toward the NRA?
Now, people who detest the NRA will tell you that they oppose carnage committed with guns. (Whoopee-doo. Who doesn’t?) They want to make the society safe, especially for children and other politically potent symbols. Well, there are at least two ways to reduce the murder rate. One is to get rid of weapons — guns, knives, ball bats, pipes, screwdrivers, straight razors, bricks, feet, and so on. If you could get guns out of the hands of criminals, which you can’t, I suspect the murder rate would drop a good bit. It wouldn’t come close to going away.
Another way to reduce the crime rate is to enforce the laws. The problem here is that the overwhelming majority of violent crime in Washington is committed by blacks. The anti-gun folk are overwhelmingly Democratic. Both for practical political reasons — the black vote is crucial in presidential elections — and for powerful emotional and ideological reasons, they cannot favor enforcement. The prisons already bulge with blacks.
A third way to reduce crime by blacks might be to put decent schools in black neighborhoods, change the laws to favor marriage, and try to prepare the black downtown population to compete on even terms in what is, after all, a complex society. This would be my approach. I think, though I can’t speak for the NRA, that its members would agree. In the long run, no other approach will work.
There are two reasons why the Democrats will not attempt to improve education and encourage stronger families. One is that they obviously don’t think blacks are smart enough to succeed. If they did believe it, and did care about blacks, schooling would be their focus. It isn’t. Instead they favor cynical condescension swathed in simulated concern.
The other reason is that powerful Democratic constituencies oppose measures that would strengthen black society. Feminists wildly oppose intact families, the teachers unions oppose higher standards for teachers, professional blacks would rage against cultural imperialism. Attempting any practical solution to the ills of blacks would destroy the Democratic party.
However, Democrats can attack legitimate gun-owners and the NRA. These are almost entirely white, mostly male and, I suspect, mostly Republican. The NRA is a safe target. Further, the anti-gun people already hate them, guns aside, as being often of rural roots, conservative, self-reliant, and so on.
Note that legislation proposed by the anti-gun people is not aimed at criminals, but at law-abiding owners of guns. For example, eliminating concealed-carry permits would have no effect on crime, since people who have carry permits have to demonstrate they have no criminal record: they don’t commit crime. Criminals will carry concealed anyway. The anti-gun enthusiasts want to disarm the white conservative middle-class chiefly because they dislike them. Guns aren’t the issue.
In Washington, ownership of guns is illegal. Does this mean that criminals don’t have guns? No. It means that when someone with an unhappy childhood comes through your window at night, you will be helpless. Since he knows this, he will be much more confident in climbing in. I would never suggest, as many wryly have, that, robbery being the principal indigenous industry of Washington, the government doesn’t want it hampered by self-defense.
But I might think it in quiet moments.
At bottom, raging against the NRA is a convenient way to divert attention from difficult and very serious social problems. I’m not impressed.