Fear and Ignorance at the NRA Convention


The National Rifle Association is holding its annual meeting in Houston this weekend.  It’s about twenty minutes from where I sit.  I won’t be going.  That’s not a political statement.  To the contrary, I am an NRA member.  I just hate fighting crowds and they are expecting 70,000 people to turn out for the convention.  And of course, there are the protesters outside the convention hall.

Protesting the NRA these days has become very fashionable.  This past week in Houston, a school district canceled a gun safety program on its campus when it found out that the curriculum was provided by the NRA.  It was a knee-jerk reaction to be sure, but indicative of a larger problem in the gun control debate. The problem is that many people have a negative response to guns, and it’s an emotional response fueled by ignorance, lack of exposure, and fear.  I understand that.  Lack of familiarity always makes people uncomfortable.  Snakes are scary.  Dark places are scary.  Meeting new people can be scary.  Lack of familiarity with guns can make them scary too. 

Ironically, there are many things around us that are more dangerous than guns, but they are more familiar and hence less scary.  The Centers for Disease Control statistics from 2010 (the most recent on the website) lists about 30,000 firearm deaths.   This is what scares most of us –  fear of being shot by an assailant.  However, the data indicate that only about a third of firearm deaths are homicides.   Sadly, most gun fatalities are suicides.  The second and third most common method of suicide is poisoning and hanging.  Rope and pills aren’t as scary as guns even though they are used to end the life of 19,000 people, about the same amount who used a gun to commit suicide. We’d be better off focusing on suicide prevention and mental health issues, less on guns,  if we really want to save lives.

If you are afraid of being accidentally shot, the data indicate that about 600 deaths were from accidental discharges.  In comparison, there were 3700 accidental drowning deaths.  Pools are not scary, though I would wager they are much more attractive to children than handguns.   Automobile accidents were the leading cause of accidental death, killing about 35,000 people while another 26,000 were killed by injuries sustained from falls. Our familiarity with cars, stairs, and the roof over our head doesn’t make them seem scary though the risk of being  killed in a car crash or by a  fall off your roof is much greater than the risk of death by gun.

Ignorance and prejudice lead to fear.   Education, familiarity, and training are key steps towards understanding guns and preventing both accidental discharge and abuse of firearms.  Maybe those protesters could do more good on the inside of the convention hall by screaming less, listening more, and learning a little something.

11 responses

  1. I especially like your point about focusing on suicide prevention and mental illness. If we could do a better job of helping people who are in despair or suffer from mental illness, then the means of ending or threatening those lost lives would be incidental and not misidentified as their causes.

  2. Great post. Where were all these protesters last week during the Planned Parenthood event? They’ve killed more innocent people by a factor of tens if not hundreds than guns do.

  3. Hi Dr. Hammons, what a great post! I think it is interesting how most shootings happen where guns are banned. Since criminals are already breaking the law by killing and assaulting, I doubt it worries them if they break the law by carrying a gun where it is forbidden. Banning guns will only assure criminals that the responsible, law-abiding people will be defenseless.

  4. That was terrifically well said. Communication. Education. Information. Thank you. I have a roof AND a pool, and quite honestly I am more concerned about someone having an accident due to one of those than one of the guns in my house.

      • I’m in…I just don’t want to be the Secretary of the group! Too much paperwork! I’ll help with PR.

  5. Dr Hammons

    I am also an NRA member and didn’t go to the convention because like you I don’t like crowds. However I think the second amendment is sacred. I believe the media is part of a conspiracy with some in Washington to erode the liberties we enjoy as Americans. I am one of those who cherishes my God and my right to keep and bear arms.


    • Amen to that Rudy. All of the amendments in the Bill of Rights were adopted to protect the people from the government. The second amendment is part of that tradition, and there is no other way to read it.

  6. Because we believe that the best way to protect our liberties is to make sure students get an education that honors and upholds the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, we’ve started a new initiative this year at HBU. You can read more about it at this link: http://www.hbu.edu/liberty

    If anybody wants to help me build a replica of Independence Hall on campus, please give me a call!

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