What the NRA Should Have Said
If the group really wanted to make "meaningful contributions" to the conversation about gun control, it would have covered these five points.
3. There is rarely a credible reason for a private citizen to own an assault weapon.
One of the most vexing aspects of the modern-day gun-control debate has been the inability of Congress to reinstate the assault-weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Gun-control critics have repeatedly asked the question, "What does any person need an AK-47 for?" It's a fair question. It's not exactly as if you can use it for deer hunting. Every gun owner should be not only able to but also required to articulate the reason for an immediate need for a specific firearm (emphasis on immediate) before purchase -- no exceptions -- and the burden of proof should be on that person.
If the NRA wants opponents to take the organization and its concerns seriously, then it needs to concede some of the weaknesses in the current system that allows so-called bad gun owners to do bad things that make good gun owners look bad. Allowing private citizens to own military-style weapons is one such weakness, and acknowledging this does not in any way hurt those gun owners who own guns that are reasonable, for reasonable reasons, such as hunting.
4. Gun registration is not a bad thing.
One of the key fears of gun owners regarding closing the gun-show loophole is that the federal government would be empowered to maintain a database of all guns and gun owners. Here's a question: Why is this a bad thing? Americans are required to register all sorts of things, including cars, so why shouldn't Americans be required to register firearms?
Since the Newtown tragedy, the number of Americans who support such registries has reached an all-time high of 76 percent. If the NRA had acknowledged the fears, and common sense, of these Americans, it would have lent the organization an air of credibility that it has now likely lost in the wake of Newtown because of its response to that tragedy.
No, the NRA did not walk into that school and shoot 20 children, but plenty of people believe that the organization bears some of the blame for contributing to a culture that allowed such an incident to happen. Studies have shown that when doctors apologize for medical errors, malpractice suits are less likely.
Often what we all just want or need to hear is an acknowledgment from others that they understand our hurt and anger and their own responsibility for contributing to those feelings, even if that was not their intent. LaPierre's comments denying any culpability whatsoever not only made him appear tone-deaf but also will likely ensure that the NRA's response to this tragedy is forever remembered as heartless.