Attempting to convince millions of Americans not to own guns will not educate them on safe gun practices, just like talking abstinence will not educate people on safe sex practices.
Though gun control advocates may never see eye-to-eye with the NRA on gun policy, they should find common ground with the NRA's nonpolitical educational gun safety initiatives. Many of those initiatives seek to curb gun accidents by promoting responsible and safe firearm storage and use.
While most Americans support stricter gun-control, 90 percent oppose complete gun bans. Most of America believes in responsible gun ownership. Over 40 percent of U.S. households have one or more lawfully owned gun. Even President Obama candidly admits to clay shooting "all the time" and having a "profound respect for the traditions of hunting."
Millions of Americans own and use guns regularly, for target shooting, hunting, collecting, or home defense. Given the prevalence of guns in U.S. society, gun safety must be a priority.
Discussing policy is also necessary. For example, the NRA needs to be held to task for its deeply unsettling opposition to universal background checks. The vast majority of Americans agree with requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases. But the NRA still obdurately refuses to back such legislation, despite 74% of NRA members themselves supporting such legislation.
Putting politics and policy aside, there are an estimated 43-55 million households with guns. Educating people on safe gun handling, keeping guns out of the hands of children, criminals, and the unstable, is vital to decreasing gun related injuries and deaths.
Talking politics alone or attempting to convince millions of Americans not to own guns will not constructively educate those people, just like talking abstinence alone will not adequately educate people on safe sex practices. You need specific instructions.
Who is educating these millions of gun owners? It is largely the NRA, through its 93,000 NRA Certified Instructors nationwide, that trains about 750,000 people a year on gun safety. The NRA Eddie Eagle GunSafe firearm accident prevention program has reached over 25 million children, making it the most widely taught prevention program in the world. The program teaches children that if they see a gun, they should "STOP! Don't Touch. Leave The Area. Tell An Adult."
Education is correlated with reducing misuse of guns. Despite significant population growth, unintentional firearm deaths fell to a 106-year low in 2009. According to the CDC, From 1999-2010 there was a 42.8 percent decrease in accidental firearm deaths per population of 100,000.
While improvements in trauma care likely played a huge role in this decline, NRA-sponsored safety programs likely also played a role. The NRA, for example, trains gun owners to keep guns locked and unloaded. Not surprisingly, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found empirical support that storing firearms unloaded and locked, could save many lives.
Even while calling out the NRA lobbyists for opposing sensible gun measures, it is important to recognize the value the NRA provides in educating millions of Americans on the safe use and storage of guns.
Eliyahu Federman graduated law school from City University of New York, where he served as executive editor of law review. He is senior vice president and CCO of the daily deal e-retailer 1SaleADay.com. The opinions expressed here represent his personal views.