Hello Voters! I had hoped my first content-heavy blog would be about air quality, or education, issues close to my heart. However, gun safety is an issue that matters to all Utahns, and since I sent the following letter yesterday in response to the NRA's questionnaire, I wanted to share that response publicly with all of you here:
I received your National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund questionnaire, which you introduced with the following, highlighted caveat:
“If you choose not to return a questionnaire, you may be assigned a ‘?’ rating, which can be interpreted by our membership as indifference, if not outright hostility, toward Second Amendment-related issues.”
I will not be responding to your questionnaire, but I’d like to make it clear that I fully support the Second Amendment to our Constitution. Every citizen has the right to bear arms. Like all rights, the right to bear arms is not absolute. For example, we cannot entrust guns to those whom we have good reasons to expect are unable to safely handle them, such as people suffering from mental illness, people without training in gun safety, and those who have a history of criminal violence. Exercising any right carries with it certain responsibilities. But the NRA has too often focused solely on the right to bear arms as if it were absolute, while disregarding the duty of gun owners, and indeed all Americans, to ensure that guns are used safely.
Many of the NRA’s statements and positions attempt to paint any sort of gun regulation in a negative light—even reasonable regulations like expanded background checks, which the majority of Americans support. Besides being at odds with public opinion, the NRA’s absolutist stance is an insult to those thousands of American adults, and worse, American children who die each year that we fail to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, criminals and those with no training or experience.
I fervently believe that state and federal legislators have a responsibility to reduce the tragedy of gun violence where possible. This belief does not make me hostile to the Second Amendment, it makes me a rational human being.
I sincerely wish that the NRA would change course and begin using its influence to enact reasonable gun regulations to reduce the harm caused to our country each year by gun violence. A simple way to start would be for the NRA to immediately begin lobbying for the repeal of the so-called Dickey Amendment, which bans the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting scientific studies on gun violence, and which the NRA continually lobbies to keep on the books. If we want to solve gun violence, we need to understand its causes. Our best path to that understanding is surely through providing resources to our best scientific minds. That is the way we put a man on the moon. That is how we eradicated smallpox and prevent myriad other diseases. That is how we have dramatically reduced and continue to reduce traffic deaths. We can do the same thing with gun violence.
I challenge the NRA to transform itself from a special interest lobby that caters to the gun industry by intimidating candidates, into a civic partner that is committed to reducing gun violence through rational regulations, while protecting the Second Amendment right of law abiding Americans to own guns.
This questionnaire is a perfect example of how special interest groups try to bully candidates into drawing a hard line in the sand when none is required. We CAN do both: we can protect our Second Amendment rights, AND we can pass rational gun regulations that will save lives. The NRA’s threatening rhetoric is a major stumbling block to such legislation, and I will not let them force me into a box or tie my hands. That is why I have dismissed the NRA’s questionnaire. That is why I have challenged the NRA to change course.
Responsible gun owners have nothing to fear from reasonable regulations. My husband is a gun owner, and I know that most responsible Utah gun owners do not have a problem with reasonable requirements concerning registration, background checks and training for gun owners.
The NRA serves a group of rich gun manufacturers attempting to fleece millions of Americans into thinking their rights are under attack. I expect to receive an NRA rating of “?” or worse. But don’t let this special interest group fool you. I don’t want to take law abiding citizens’ guns away, I just want to make sure the people who have them are safe. Period.