By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
The National Rifle Association’s (NRA’s) new media outreach is catered to building a more hip, diverse and responsible gun culture for the next generations–while at the same time instilling strong values of “duty.” This comes in the face of too much bad press and with mass public shootings on the rise.
Whether you love or hate the NRA, the proposed idea has potential merit in public safety and potentially a better educated, participating public in so much as it incorporates the concepts of personal defense, public safety and civic duty. After all, most liberals are not opposed to responsible [and regulated] self-defense or civic duty. In some ways, it is a great leap for the pro-gun lobby away from blind rights to keep and bear their guns.
The new theme: “Life of Duty.” Around the table of the video clips are eight experienced operators from military, law enforcement and other roles, requiring they be armed that discuss America’s future and the need for private participation and responsibility of gun owners. Other marketing and education projects like “Freestyle” and “I Am Forever” contain similar all-encompassing themes of gun rights, self-defense training and responsibility.
Although they do not stress this directly, it might be even more productive for the federal and state and local governments to come together in partnership on the issue of building stronger public culture that is centered around one’s: environmental awareness, threat avoidance, fitness and perhaps even self-defense; at least for those that are capable and eligible.
Think a modern militia system comprised of modern standards and individuals that could go through periodic training; not too dissimilar from the National Guard and old militia system in principle, but where some small arms or weapons could be taken home for practical self-defense purposes.
It could also be a requirement to serve or have served in militia or armed services before such honors of gun ownership might be rewarded; although, this particular requisite would elicit a fair amount of outrage from pro-gun organizations like the NRA.
In any case, it is interesting to note the change in marketing from the NRA. Many of the NRA’s newly sponsored programs are veterans of the armed services, law enforcement community and other various retirees of the national security infrastructure. They also tend to target the younger demographic as well as females. With so many in ex-government employees at this time, it makes sense that they can act as local guides and mentors to private American organizations and young individuals. The NRA approach is teaching them what it means to train in self-defense and share in a civic duty spirit. Service to country and public need not end with service in government.
Where this NRA movement has potential to get out of hand or instead become one of the next great ideals of public-private defense will depend on the amount of cooperation and interaction between private and public entities. The government and the people must work together more on this matter or they will drift apart, ensuing in greater national political division and likely an increase in altercations.
Using the public more is always a good thing if done correctly. Soliciting the aid for crime prevention, tips, call-ins, volunteering or the understanding that professionals and Jane Q-Publics illustrate Americans are working for the safety of self and whole.
Of course, there needs to be more order and discipline with such freedoms as the right to “Keep and Bear Arms.” That seems to be the bottom line. Moreover, the public must adhere and must respect the authorities, the laws and their fellow citizens; especially in times of crisis and emergency.
The biggest obstacle to the principle of a pro-gun movement with a pro-discipline movement will be ruined by extremists on each side of the political spectrum in an emotional climate of fear.
The farthest politically left group fears a movement like this will be carried away into by an flood of American separatist movements who will further blame the left for passing laws that in their minds protect the larger public over the individual, in order to provide for the greatest utility of safety on the whole, but to the right, are acts of tyranny.
The farthest politically right group fears that the government will take all of their most sacred rights away and force them to do things they did not have to before and do not wish to do now or are completely against; hence, restrict their overall independence and choice.
Both groups have already begun their extreme political divergence based on fears rather than on sound reason. Neither side interprets the Second Amendment correctly. While there is cause for both arguments of civil unrest from the right and overreach or abuse from by left, whether the two political views will at some point come together on this issue will determine greater harmony or discord.
These political movements have already begun in a two pronged manner in opposite directions. The truth is that they can be reconciled with greater regulations, standards and requirements in addition to bringing the government and the people together when it comes to self-defense rights and public safety. The issue is larger than guns and moves into preparedness, public consideration, responsibility and duty as a whole.
Often the real divide is between those backing a professional class of warriors or peace officers versus the part-time armed volunteers and laymen. But there is also a real divide of unity in government with the people that is lost in a system of strict professionalism alone. The choice of having social defenders versus individual defenders is another example of a false dichotomy. Professionalism is found inside and outside of the government and often times outside. But where it is outside, there is often less order and discipline.
Public servants in the security field are individuals and individuals within society comprise of the people and the two cannot in truth be split. Professionals are often unaffiliated with the government when their tour of duty is up or they retire. Laymen and part-time volunteers can be better trained to stay out of the way of the more experienced or rally behind them as reliable backup and support channels. Thus, the false divides are really based on the fears and false belief systems above rather than on reality and reason of the present situation.
According to a Gallup poll in 2011, some 47 percent of Americans had at least on firearm in the home.
The total number of [legal] firearms in the U.S., with regards to private gun ownership, is 300 million, according to the ATF 2010 figure. That rises around 10 million per year in legal sales.
That means that just less than half of the population in the U.S. has enough guns for all of the civilian population as a whole, if such estimates are reliable. Moreover that does not include illegal small arms, which are estimated to be hundreds of thousands per year.
Gun theft alone has an annual average of some 230,000 per year (2005-2010); down from around 341,000 (1990s), but still considerably high. The number of guns stolen declined but not the change in gun thefts, according to the Wall Street Journal article, “Stolen by the Numbers.”
According to the ATF, 60 percent of the guns used in crimes are traced to crooked federally licensed gun dealers (1.2 percent). Straw Purchasing (buying a gun for a friend who does not have a clean record) makes up about 50 percent of criminal purchases or their illegal access to falsely registered firearms.
The total number of gun related homicides is reported to be around 10,000 to 12,000 per year.
With so many guns, poor regulations, so many deaths and so many irresponsible people, it might make more sense to make them more responsible and integrate them into the pubic system through mandatory service of some kind, so that they might keep those rights while serving the people and protecting themselves from harm. This was intended as a requirement for the right to keep and bear arms (see Second Amendment in full: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of the state…” This portion is required and an equal part of the following Amended portion of the constitution to empower states and peoples and alleviate concerns of a tyrannical central government but still serve the common good as well as their individual lives: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”).
An ill-advised option is the impractical solution to try and remove all of the guns from the U.S. and purge the country entirely from guns. Sure, in a utopia a gun-free state or world is ideal if it could bring about peace. But then what about the police and the military? What about the criminals and unregistered guns and the criminals possessing them while the law abiding citizens have none to protect themselves? What about the hunters? And this would be the worst unrealistic option because it will incite provoked violence from those that believe they have right to bear arms [regardless of responsibility and duty].
So if they are already out there in droves, why not get the people more involved with the system and make them more responsible and institute tighter restrictions and controls of registry and service? Perhaps they might be integrated over time through a modern militia framework from the local, state and federal levels and private and public joint cooperation.
This is just one potential idea based on reason and without political party affiliation or platform. To be sure, many more can be drawn up that seek to modernize the concept of the Second Amendment’s responsibilities with its Right. Any good idea will promote the full range of: eligibility, regulations, responsibility, discipline and cooperation for the enhanced benefit of the country, the individual and safety of all. All of these are needed in any reasonable consideration for gun policy reform.
The NRA is taking a step in the right direction for its own sake, but perhaps it is not a wholly bad idea to meet them half way in securing a right of the people and the responsibilities that must come with that right.