When a teenage gunman earlier this month walked into Douglas High School and and killed 17 students and teachers and wounded 15 more, immediate ire was focused on the makers and users of the AR-15 civilian tactical semi-automatic rifle, the weapon used in that horrific crime. That shooting followed right on the heels of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 where that gunman also used AR-15 rifles, as well as AR-10 tactical versions of the 30-08 semi-automatic rifle. In that crime scene 58 people were killed and 422 injured with rounds from the gunman’s weapons. Colt, the primary manufacturer of the AR-15 (although not the only one) of course came under scrutiny again for its role, but real rage exploded over the National Rifle Association and its perceived coddling of gun manufacturers and gun owners, particularly with respect to “assault” style tactical civilian rifles.
Anti-gun-ownership groups seized on public anger by renewing their call for boycotting companies that do business with the NRA. And this time their efforts gained traction, with Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Hertz, Allied Van Lines, Met Life, SimpliSafe, First National Bank of Omaha, Paramount Rx, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent-a-Car, National Car Rental, Symantec, Republic Bank, Avis, and Budget all announcing they would end their discount plans to NRA members during 2018. Best Western and Wyndham, previously targets of boycotts, had already ended their relationships with the NRA in the last four years.
About one in 100 Americans are NRA members, so why alienate such a large group by withdrawing consumer benefits offered to almost every other national organization? Don’t be deceived, it isn’t over some political stance against gun ownership. Rather it is because considerably more than one in 100 Americans are outraged at the NRA’s militant stance against gun controls. Their stance is viewed to have indirectly contributed to recent body counts at scenes like at Douglas High and at Las Vegas.
This viewpoint bears some some limited logic. Although there are already as many firearms in civilian hands as there are adults in the U.S., the Las Vegas and Douglas High shooters had purchased their firearms and/or ammunition in the short time before their murderous sprees. Many Democrats and anti-gun lobbyists had called for years for the banning of the tactical rifles that both shooters used. If such a ban was in place, then perhaps not as many people would have been killed, or maybe none at all.
Unfortunately that viewpoint is also mostly false. A new piece of hardware called the bump stock was used in the Las Vegas shooting, converting semi-automatic rifles to fully automatic assault weapons. The shooter managed to fire over a thousand rounds in a very short period of time, taking advantage of a densely packed music festival to inflict the high number of casualties. It was the first time that the bump stock had been used in a shooting crime. The NRA came out against the bump stock right after that shooting. In the Douglas High shooting any semi-automatic hunting rifle would have sufficed to claim the 32 victims that the AR-15 claimed in the seven minutes of firing that actually occurred. There is nothing special about the AR-15 that makes it more lethal than a more mundane .22-long caliber semi-automatic Remington. Even a bolt-action rifle in experienced hands can be as deadly as a semi-automatic in inexperienced hands.
It also should be obvious that the Douglas High shooter did not even have to use a firearm at all. Renting a truck from the local Home Depot and driving it into the front lobby of the high school would have been as effective. So too would have been rampaging through the hallways with a sharp knife. Or perhaps setting off an explosive after he pulled the fire alarm. Thus the issue at hand is more complicated than the staged moral argument of Second Amendment gun rights versus the right to demand children be safe.
The Las Vegas shooter was a lone wolf gunman who had shown no signs of his mad plan for mass murder. But it has been subsequently revealed that the Douglas High shooter had been identified as being mentally unstable and tips had poured into the local sheriff department and the FBI with regard the the shooter’s behavior. It was also revealed that an armed deputy failed to intercede during the shooting spree, an act that may have saved a number of lives. These details do show that gun ownership was far from the only enabler. But even in the absence of such mitigating factors, it is not accurate to blame the NRA for such shootings; boycotts and shaming are a red herring.
There will always be those that are perfectly willing to trade away civil liberties in exchange for womb-like public safety. Fortunately sanctimoniousness is not equivalent to holding moral high ground. It is just dogma and should be recognized as such.