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Stephan Melsted, Fargo, Published December 29 2012

Letter to the editor: Sanity eludes the NRA

Next fall, I will have been a member of the National Rifle Association for 50 years. Back then, the NRA had a good reputation for promoting gun safety. My Boy Scout troop learned how not to injure ourselves or each other while plinking with our .22s.

Fifty years ago next fall, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It took five years and the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy before modest gun control legislation was enacted. An NRA leader of that time testified that no “sane American” could object to a ban on mail-order rifle sales. Unfortunately, that’s about the last time the NRA had anything sane to say about gun control.

Since then, guns have killed more than a million Americans. Yet the NRA’s position solidified around the straw-man argument that gun control would bring “jack-booted thugs” to take your guns and end your Second Amendment rights. Americans don’t believe that. Republicans don’t believe that. Most NRA members don’t even believe that. So the NRA needed a new argument.

At its media event after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut, the NRA blamed “gun-free” zones for making schools less safe, and called for an armed police officer inside every U.S. school. That would remove one in every seven cops from previous duties. But wait.

Classrooms can be breached through windows, too, so the number of needed police now grows to equal the number of individual classrooms. And the Aurora, Colo., massacre was in a movie theater, so another cop for every screen in every multiplex. And the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin means ... you get the picture.

There is no end to the number of possible “gun-free” zones that need guns, and no limit to the need for greater and greater firepower to battle wackos better equipped than some Third World armies. All of which perfectly accomplishes the NRA’s mission: to sell guns. It is after all, the gun manufacturing lobby.

We know what responsible gun control should look like. Just as we know which rifle can cleanly bring down a game animal without making mincemeat, and how many shots it really takes. We really do know our right to bear arms is in no danger.

What we need to learn is how to give our elected representatives cover. When politicians vote our sensible wishes on gun control, we need to have their backs. When the NRA rolls out its big-gun political attack machine, we need to shine a light on its real agenda. Politicians already living deep within NRA pockets need to be removed like unwanted lint.

Fifty years ago, the NRA served a useful purpose in my life. Now it just insults my intelligence by arguing that the only way to solve the problem of too many guns is with more guns.