This morning, I called up members of the Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association—the official state affiliate of the National Rifle Association—to get their reactions to day's mass elementary-school shooting in Connecticut. I wanted to find out what NRA members proposed in order to keep our school children and malls and movie theaters and other public spaces safe. Here are their thoughts:
Legislative Chairman Joe Waldron, 66, Bellevue:
What are your thoughts on today's school shooting, which is just the last in a long line of public shootings? It’s difficult to comment; We don’t know the details of what occurred yet. I have no doubt that we’re going to see 100 new laws proposed in Olympia, another 100 in DC. But the bottom line is, in almost every instance when a mass shooting like this occurs, it occurs in an area where guns are prohibited. This creates an environment where people can’t protect themselves. When you have a psychopath deciding that he wants to make some type of a statement, historically those are the places they choose—places where guns are prohibited. What’s also historically true, the police are never there in time to stop the individual. Even when they’re apprehended, it’s usually after the shooter has stopped shooting.
Are you suggesting that the school teachers should’ve been armed? We’ll never know! Am I advocating arming all teachers? Not necessarily. But current state laws prohibit them from being armed and I’m questioning whether that’s the best policy. If guns were as evil as people claim they are, you’d hear about mass shootings at gun shows. Never happens. Police stations. Again, never happens. These things only happen when these nutcases are able to go someplace knowing that they’re perfectly safe to do what they want to do.
Alright then, how do we keep nutcases from getting guns? Right after Virginia Tech, there was a push to put mental health records in gun background checks. We do not oppose that. It’s the mental health advocates that oppose it. Then again, a lot of these shooters have no prior history of mental health.
Do you think some guns are more dangerous than others? No. Part of the problem is one of education. There’s an awful lot of misinformation out there. Every time something like this happens, we hear about "weapons of war." Reporters are assuming the guy used an AR-15. You might wonder, 'why do people have those rifles?' They’re the most popular, hottest selling long gun on the market today. Why? Because they have a broad variety of uses and are exceptionally accurate. It isn’t even remotely high powered but it is exceptionally accurate.
How do we prevent more mass shootings from taking place? Part of the problem, I think, is that by the time a person reaches 18 in the US, he’s seen one million people killed, usually unlawfully, on TV and in movies. Depictions of violence are much gorier than they were in my day. Video games! The video game Doom! I think that, through the realism of today’s video games and movies, we’ve desensitized people into committing violence. I think we’re seeing the results of a failure to enact reasonable restrictions [on violent video games, movies] at age levels, at the very least.
So you're saying video games and movies are to blame for gun violence? It’s not the availability of guns in this country. Guns were far more available to kids when I was growing up, and yet we didn’t shoot our classmates, we didn’t shoot our friends. What’s changed is violence in the media, violence in video games. There was no such thing at a mass shooting in schools in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. We’re desensitizing kids to violence. Even rape! It’s incomprehensible. I don’t understand why people are allowed to get away with [making these games/movies/etc]—except of course we have 1st Amendment rights so we can’t touch them.
Then what’s the solution? I'll say this: Given the 250 million guns in circulation in the US, it’s amazing how infrequently this happens.
Vice President Duane Hatch, 58, Gig Harbor resident:
What's your reaction to today's school shooting? I just heard about it. I can’t comment on today’s shooting.
What action, if any, do you think our legislators need to take to ensure public safety? Our legislators need to fund police departments in order to enforce the existing laws. The one [shooting] in Portland, the gun was actually stolen. There are plenty of existing laws on the books to get guns away from criminals and people who shouldn’t have them.
Do you think Washington should close itsgun show loophole? There is no gun show loophole. There are no transactions that occur at gun shows that are illegal. The judges just need to back up law enforcement people.
How then do you propose we prevent people from walking into schools and shooting children? You can answer that question as well as I can. If I can predict how to do that, I’d definitely tell my legislators. It is impossible. It is physically not possible.
So our laws are doing just fine at protecting people from gun violence? I don’t think any additional laws are necessary.
Are some guns more dangerous than others? Nope.
How many guns do you personally own? I'm not going to answer that question.
Do you have any concerns about people shooting other people in public? I’m concerned that people don’t take a look at the big picture on the use of firearms, the ownership of firearms. It’s disconcerting that people think that legislators can suddenly pass laws and make this all go away.
Secretary Alan Carey, over 50, Seattle resident:
What are your thoughts on today's school shooting? I would say that, I’m not familiar with the laws in Connecticut, but every one of these shootings needs to be evaluated on its own.
What action, if any, do you think our legislators need to take to ensure public safety? I think the laws we have are strict. I would say that if that process of buying a gun is followed, it’s stringent. Whether it's followed… the issue may be more of whether it’s truthfully followed.
Then how do you propose we keep people from walking into schools and shooting children? This is really a tragedy. I don’t know why he did what he did. I think people should be able to legally own firearms, that's what i think. I don’t know what led to this tragedy.
Are some guns more dangerous than others? Not inherently, within the firearms that normal people can purchase.
How many guns do you own? That’s my own private business. We’re organized for competitive target shooting—that’s what we do. We’re not… that’s our… when I shoot target rifles competitively, I shoot one at a time.