As I write this commentary, I want you to know I own firearms and carried a firearm as a law enforcement officer for over 35 years. I was awarded a Purple Heart for being shot by a heroin dealer with a .357 magnum as a DEA special agent and I still support the Second Amendment.
In 1986, I became aware of a bullet designed to penetrate the soft body armor worn by police officers. With naiveté, I called the National Rifle Association and asked for its help in preventing this bullet from being sold to the public. The NRA refused to help in preventing what was labeled the “Cop-Killer Bullet.”
As my concern increased, I turned to the political leadership. I worked with Education Secretary William Bennett and President Ronald Reagan, who were both supportive and helpful in the effort to protect police officers. Reagan supported bans on armor-piercing bullets and, more important, a ban on assault rifles.
As my involvement on gun-related issues increased, I became a target of the National Rifle Association. At this time, I was serving as the police chief in Omaha, Neb. The NRA took out full-page ads in the Omaha World-Herald against my leadership as police chief and encouraged the NRA membership to write nonsupportive letters to my mayor.
During this time period, I debated the NRA’s leadership on several occasions. I transported from Omaha to Washington, D.C., a standard hunting rifle and an assault rifle. During a televised debate, I was able to show the clear differences between a hunting rifle and an assault rifle.
When I moved to the police chief’s position in Aurora, Ill., my new boss, Mayor David Pierce, advised me that he had received more than 800 letters of nonsupport from local NRA members prior to my hiring.
I only mention these facts to demonstrate the power, intimidation and lengths the NRA will go to in support of gun sales.
With the recent school shootings in mind, I want to give the devil his due. The NRA has masterfully used fear tactics to bolster gun sales. The consequences of the NRA’s strategy to sell guns, including assault rifles, have contributed to school shootings, church shootings, concert shootings and workplace shootings.
I want to commend the kids in Florida for initiating a national movement to reduce gun violence in schools. Their efforts have generated national public attention on gun violence in America and the need for something meaningful to be accomplished.
Ever since the Las Vegas concert shooting, I have tried to get my congressional representatives to do something, but it is difficult to even get them to respond to questions. The NRA has given thousands of dollars to Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Mike Lee. The NRA has given my representative, Rob Bishop, thousands of dollars.
I still want to know my congressional representatives’ positions on the following three questions:
1. Do you support a ban on assault rifles?
2. Do you support a ban on bump stocks?
3. Do you support a ban on large-capacity magazines?
I have called my congressional representatives. I have emailed my congressional representatives and I have written an open letter to my congressional representatives, and I have yet to receive an answer to my three questions.
To fully comprehend the power of the NRA, we need to review what the NRA has accomplished:
1. On July 29, 2005, The NRA got Congress to pass legislation that prevents gun shops and gun manufacturers from being sued for deaths and harm their gun products create. Can you imagine any other product getting a free pass for its companies?
2. The NRA has successfully blocked the Centers for Disease Control from researching gun violence in America by cutting the CDC’s funding. This action has prevented us from knowing how much damage gun violence has created in America, and has limited information that could be useful in finding solutions. Can you imagine any death/injury problem or disease being blocked from research funding?
3. By presenting the following myths: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people,” “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” and “Americans need guns to prevent tyranny in America,” the NRA has successfully created a mindset that guns are absolutely necessary to protect freedom and secure safety. Research has proven all of these propositions are nonsensical and illogical, but with repetition they have influenced group thinking.
4. By aggressively attacking anyone who attempts to limit gun sales, using the Second Amendment as a club, the NRA threatens anyone, including Congress, with retribution.
I’m hoping, as a former NRA member and current gun owner, that I can contribute to productive change that will prevent mass murder in any form. I know we can’t stop all gun violence, but we can prevent some of it with minor changes.
If the firepower of mass murder were limited, by banning assault rifles, bump stocks and large-capacity magazines, we could reduce the death toll. Remember, President Reagan, a staunch conservative, supported that previous ban on assault rifles. And Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the strongest conservative on the Supreme Court, clearly stated, “The Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
Robert C. Wadman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus in the criminal justice department of Weber State University.