Since the horrific massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, accusations have been flying around as to who is responsible for the atrocity.
Obviously, the person to blame for ending seventeen lives is the one who pulled the trigger and aimed at helpless individuals going about their normal routine. Unfortunately, in today’s toxic, agenda-filled political environment, the truth is too plain. Too cut and dry. It is far too difficult to accept that evil is real and walks among us, and laws will never keep future tragedies from occurring. This is a terrible truth of our sin-sick world.
But surely, there are other parties who bear a large portion of the blame?
In what I’ve seen since the horror, the closest we can come to another party falling in line behind the shooter in succession of guilt is both the FBI and Broward County Police Department. The FBI knew that Nikolas Cruz had expressed his desire to become a “professional school shooter”, yet they did nothing. Meanwhile, the local police, who had visited the shooter’s home close to 40 times in recent years, never took action. To add sickening insult to injury, it was reported that more than one officer remained outside of the school during the rampage and never went in. (Thankfully, others such as this off-duty cop ran toward the carnage, looking for ways to assist.)
Bravery still exists.
Unsurprisingly, many have included the NRA in the list of responsible parties. An organization that promotes the Second Amendment and the freedoms defined within it must surely bear some of the blame for gun violence, right? Absolutely not. This hasn’t stopped politicians, journalists, celebrities, victims, and that person down the street from making the claim, though. Too many believe that supporting and exercising the right to bear arms automatically implicates someone as a co-accomplice in whatever gun crime dominates the news cycle.
This is nothing but foolish, emotional thinking. It is fear-mongering and disdain for others and their way of life.
The majority of gun owners in America, a land where there are 300 million firearms, are peaceful, law-abiding citizens eager to protect themselves and their loved ones. They should not feel guilty. They do not possess bloodstained hands.
It is important to battle against the idea that the National Rifle Association is at fault for anything associated with gun tragedies. It is also important to ask the NRA to refine its message because lately, it has been extreme.
This October 2017 ad is a good example.
— NRATV (@NRATV) October 20, 2017
While I don’t always side with Dana Loesch on every issue or comment, I do highly respect her and the place she holds in American conservatism. She is often a tireless voice for everyday citizens. Her advocacy for gun rights places her in the lion’s den, as we saw during Thursday night’s townhall on CNN. She was subject to unnecessary cruelty from victims, families, and anti-gun activists who thrust all their hate her direction. She handled it well, as my colleague Jennifer Van Laar notes here.
Dana is a paid spokesperson for the NRA. I take no issue with her. I do, however, take issue with the messaging as seen in the above video.
If we are to be the level-headed side, disagreeing with others but not pushing an emotional narrative, then the NRA needs to tone down its rhetoric. It is not helping the cause.
“…their fate will be failure and they will perish in the political flames of their own fires. We are the National Rifle Association of America, and we are freedom’s safest place.”
We are not engaged in a civil war, though some would certainly wish that to be the case. We hold differing opinions than our fellow Americans, some who don’t own guns, don’t want guns, and don’t understand why others might. You certainly don’t have to share their anti-gun views, but you should respect them.
Yes, you should.
The hyper-partisanship seen throughout that video does the NRA no favors, either. Gun ownership isn’t just for registered Republicans. It is not only for those who voted for or who like Trump. It is for everyone. What better way to keep people from being even slightly sympathetic to your cause than rejecting any criticism of a deeply-flawed, questionable individual like the 45th president?
It is not helpful.
That video is four months old. It aired long before we knew Nikolas Cruz’s name. It existed when those seventeen, precious souls still lived and breathed. If it represents the tone of a pre-Parkland massacre NRA, then imagine what their next public relations offering will bring.
Now, more than ever, the National Rifle Association needs to tone down the hyperbole and hyper-partisanship. It needs to inject a dose of compassion into its message.
We lost fellow Americans at that high school on February 14. We may not have known them, but their loss is still felt. We may be supportive of the Second Amendment, but that does not mean we can’t talk – calmly – about measures that may reduce the frequency or severity of gun crimes while not infringing upon our rights.
It won’t be perfect, but it is possible.
Right now, companies like Delta, United Airlines, and Enterprise are pulling support from the NRA and removing perks for its members. These actions represent misplaced blame and more emotional thinking. These actions do nothing but hurt the law-abiding citizens who utilize their services. They do nothing but widen the divide.
Three of the top five deadliest mass shootings in the United States happened in 2016 and 2017. Like it or not, everyone is looking at the NRA. Despite the intense frustration and public shaming, they should take the high road.
We don’t need more division.
Follow Kimberly Ross on Twitter: @southernkeeks.