On Meet the Press Sunday morning, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre stated plainly that the NRA will not take part in any conversations concerning limiting access to weapons or the types of weapons that are legally available. The NRA will talk about locking up criminals, but will not talk about limiting their access to weapons once they are released.
LaPierre refused to answer any questions or to provide any comment as to whether or not it was in any way possible to talk about any potential changes to the types of weapons that are generally available for sale. He also refused to give an answer of any type to whether it would be possible to have any form of conversation about requiring anyone to prove they are not a convicted criminal, on the terrorist watch list, or in any other way legally restricted from purchasing firearms.
None of us know for certain what could or should be done to address gun violence. Many of us have our opinions. Many of us believe adamantly that we need many more guns. Many of us believe adamantly that we should have none. Many, like myself, are deeply conflicted on the topic and, while we have strong opinions in one or several directions, believe we first and foremost have to agree to remove all barriers to conversation and engage openly and honestly with each other.
As a political centrist who has voted for both major U.S. parties (and a minor one or two), I feel that I have some right to judge the behavior of both sides. While I see that there are reasons to criticize politicians and public leaders on the left of this issue, I cannot with any honesty share the blame equally. LaPierre is in a position of public responsibility but completely (and without reservation) refuses to provide comment directly or indirectly about any theoretical possibility of engaging in a conversation which includes mention of changes to guns themselves or access to them. Obama and the vast majority of Democratic politicians and other politically left-oriented public figures have gone to visible effort to offer to discuss any topic that could potentially be related to gun violence. I will, again, do the same before I go on.
I do not have any guns, but I know and deeply respect many friends and family members who not only have guns, but feel strongly that they are necessary for protection and/or that the right to own them is a fundamental right which cannot be infringed upon. I do not know the solution to gun violence and, while I do not believe increasing their availability will reduce gun violence, I will - and frequently do - listen to and talk with those who believe this to be the case. They may in fact be correct, and if it turns out to be the case and I had refused to discuss the possibility I would feel personal responsible for the harm that came to others due to my silence.
What I am certain of is that there will be absolutely no progress on this issue as long as leaders from the political right are unwilling to be part of these conversations. There is absolutely nothing honorable in refusing to participate in civilized discourse. It is disgraceful, shameful, dishonorable, and disrespectful to refuse to engage in discussion with others when one is in a position of responsibility which, on this topic, every single one of is in.
I go on record as pledging to publicly disavow any support for any person or group who claims to represent my interests but who refuses to engage in civil discourse with those who disagree with them. I further pledge to publicly call for any such leader of any such group to reverse their refusal to engage in civil discourse with those they disagree with.
It is my hope that my friends and family would equally agree with me on the requirement that those who represent their views engage in the same level of civil discourse they expect of themselves. To that end, I would respectfully suggest that those among you who support the general views of conservative political and public leaders (and specifically the CEO of the NRA) publicly insist that its leadership engage in open discussion of gun violence.