Over the weekend, the National Rifle Association's (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre attacked the media for "sensational reporting from Florida" about the Trayvon Martin case. Mr. LaPierre even called the news media a "national disgrace."
For those unaware of the NRA's work, it is the nation's leading advocate of gun rights in the United States. The NRA efforts are instrumental in protecting the nation's $6 billion a year gun and ammunition industry.
The NRA is also one of the organizations that lobbied states to enact the "Stand Your Ground" law, the very one that George Zimmerman -- the man who shot Trayvon Martin -- is invoking as his legal defense for the shooting. I assume the reasoning for the NRA supporting these laws is: Why should you own a gun if you aren't going to have a chance to use it?
Did Mr. LaPierre offer any sympathy to Trayvon Martin's family? No.
Instead, he chose to denounce the media for their coverage of the case, alleging that the media's: "... dishonesty, duplicity, and moral irresponsibility is directly contributing to the collapse of American freedom in our country."
What makes Mr. La Pierre's comments especially callous is that they were made at the annual NRA convention which was being held this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis has the unenviable distinction of being the city with the second highest rate in the country for youth being killed by guns. Indeed, the gunshot murder rate for 10 to 19 years old in St. Louis is more than three times the average for larger cities according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The NRA leadership should not have been denouncing the media coverage of the killing of an innocent teen, rather they should be focusing their efforts to work with federal, state and local governments to reduce the number of gun related deaths in our nation. In 2010, there were 12,996 murders and of those 8,775 were caused by guns. That means almost 70 percent of those murdered in 2010 were as a result of gun violence.
It is not happenstance that the states with the highest number of guns also have the highest number of people murdered by guns. To put it simply: You are literally five times more likely to be shot to death in Arizona than in Hawaii.
Guns are a part of the fabric of America. There are over 200 million guns in the U.S. They will never be eliminated-nor should they be. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court in the last few years has recognized that American citizens have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes and this right cannot be violated by federal, state or local laws.
Despite knowing this reality, some gun advocates prefer to spew misinformation and inspire fear among gun owners that the government is coming to take their guns away. This is nothing more than a rallying cry used by some to scare people into opposing reasonable laws that could save lives, such as background checks for all people purchasing guns even if sold at a gun show or by private citizens.
The tired cliché espoused by the NRA that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" should be retired. It is an over-simplification of a problem that doesn't have easy answers.
Reducing gun violence will take a concerted strategy, such as the one New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in February with his initiative to reduce gun violence. This multi-faceted program combines funding for communities to create anti-violence strategies and provides state support for both advertising campaigns and community-based programs to counter gun violence. This is certainly a step in the right direction.
There's no doubt that both those who love guns and those who detest them, want to lower the number of people killed by guns each year. However, comments by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre simply do not help us reach our common goal.