I couldn’t find a hotel room in Nashville when I visited for my brother’s wedding. Maybe that was for the best.
I had a longer commute to the clearing in the woods where the wedding would happen the next day, but at least I kept a safe distance from the NRA’s second-biggest convention ever happening downtown that April weekend.
Don’t get me wrong — I grew up in Nashville. And, though we never had guns around — my granddad says he’d rather have a rattlesnake in the house — I know plenty of responsible gun owners who kept rifles for hunting.
I also know many people who carry handguns for “protection” and as an expression of “individual liberty.” This group happens to include the DJ at my brother’s wedding reception. He sported a pistol tucked into his waistline during his set.
I’ve lived in Washington, D.C. for more than three years now. I can honestly say I haven’t yet spotted the gun tucked-in-the-pants look anywhere in my new hometown. Probably because it’s illegal. Yet even for Nashville, this seemed a little extreme.
So I pointed it out to my fellow groomsmen. A few laughed. One explained, “Oh, yeah. He’s always got a gun.”
I should never have asked why. That conversation always leads down the same, rocky road. But I couldn’t help myself.
“What if the government were to take arms against American citizens?” someone offered. “We need access to the same equipment so we can protect ourselves.”
Really, the same equipment? As the old saying goes: “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” I have a bold theory that bringing a gun to a tank-fight would prove equally ineffective.
“You don’t have to own a gun, but I’m going to protect myself and my family,” another said.
I still haven’t met anyone — ever — who’s used a gun to protect his or her family. I’m sure it happens from time to time, but gun owners are significantly more likely to kill themselves than an intruder. Suicides account for 6 out of every 10 gun deaths in the United States.
The NRA still claims that guns are used 2.5 million times per year in “self-defense.” But experts have widely debunked that stat and ridiculed the 2.5 million claim as a “mythical number.”
Gun rights advocates also use this logic to defend concealed-carry laws. “Crime will go down if would-be criminals have to worry about law-abiding citizens with guns!” supporters say. But this is also a lie.
Take Miami-Dade County, Florida, where in five years police records have catalogued only 12 encounters between concealed-carry permit holders and criminals, compared to 100,000 violent crimes overall.
So how have groups like the NRA persuaded the DJ at the wedding — not to mention the 78,000 attendees of the NRA convention — that more guns means more safety?
In fact, while these lobbyists have convinced gun owners that they’re looking out for “personal liberty,” that’s simply not true. The NRA represents gun manufacturers, not gun owners.
To keep up the façade, the NRA skews facts on self-defense and leans on its allies in Congress to gag gun violence research. It’s essentially made ignorance the basis for garnering support from its members.
If the DJ knew he was far more likely to shoot himself on the dance floor than stop an unexpected wave of Islamic State terrorists crashing my brother’s wedding, would he still be packing heat?
The NRA prefers that he simply never find out. By spreading ignorance to block common-sense gun control measures, the NRA scares generally well-meaning folks into throwing money at gun makers for “protection” that never comes.
I think responsible gun owners need to break up with the NRA. It’s what will make them — and wedding guests everywhere — much safer.