By Leonard Boasberg
I have received a letter from Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, advising me, "You have been specially selected to represent your fellow gun owners in the Wayne, Pennsylvania, area in the enclosed National Gun Owner's Action Survey."
That's quite a responsibility, and I appreciate being entrusted with it. I am a bit puzzled, though, as to how I got on the NRA's list. I don't own a gun, and I am a supporter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The survey, LaPierre informs me - and here he goes into boldface - "is designed to get the attention of every congressman, senator, state legislator and appointed official and let them know in no uncertain terms that we gun owners are sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens ... [and] that we are drawing a line in the sand against more gun bans. ..."
This puzzles me, too. The last I heard, the gun lobby was getting everything it demanded, including the ability to carry heat in churches and national parks. The Supreme Court, or at least five members of it, sided with the gun lobby last year in a decision shooting down one of the nation's strictest gun laws, the District of Columbia's ban on keeping a handgun at home.
By the way, if I join the NRA (at a special discount of $10 off the regular $35), they'll send me a special bonus gift: a razor-sharp, rosewood-handle pocket knife.
A knife? Why not a gun? Maybe just a little gun, like a Beretta?
I suspect that the NRA got my name from the Republican National Committee. I don't know how I got on that list, either, since I'm a Democrat. But RNC Chairman Michael Steele has been sending me letters and, like the NRA, telling me I have been chosen as a representative of all the Republicans living in my voting district. He encloses a questionnaire, my answers to which "will represent the views and opinions of ALL Republican voters" in my voting district. What a responsibility this is, and I take it seriously.
Question: "Do you oppose the Obama-Pelosi health-care takeover plan that would bring Washington bureaucrats between doctors and patients, ration medical treatment, and deny critical care while skyrocketing the national debt?" The possible answers are "Yes," "No," and "Undecided." I check "No."
I also gave the wrong answers, from the Republican point of view, to the 23 other questions. But I've come to suspect that nobody reads them. They don't really want my input, I've regretfully concluded; they only want my money.
The NRA's Action Survey arrived, by coincidence, around the time when a woman named Meleanie Hain, of Lebanon, Pa., made headlines for the second time. The first time, a little over a year before, The Inquirer reported, she had shown up at her daughter's preschool soccer game with her Glock semiautomatic strapped to her side, alarming other parents. When the Lebanon County sheriff revoked her permit to carry the weapon, she sued and won. Hain claimed she needed the gun to protect herself and her three children.
The second time Hain made headlines was when she and her husband were found shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide committed by her husband, police say.
In 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado used firearms and bombs to kill 13 people and wound 23 more before taking their own lives. In 2007, the Virginia Tech student who killed 32 people and wounded more than 20 before taking his own life did not use poison or ropes or baseball bats. He used a Glock 19 semiautomatic and a Walther P22 semiautomatic. At Fort Hood last month, Major Nidal Malik Hasan was reportedly armed with two handguns when he slaughtered 13 people and wounded 31. A day later, in Orlando, Fla., a 40-year-old man used a handgun to kill a former colleague and wound five other employees at an engineering firm. In Philadelphia, meanwhile, a 13-year-old boy used a .25-caliber handgun to shoot a 17-year-old boy in the head.
According to the FBI, 9,484 people were murdered in the United States last year, 6,755 of them by handguns.
Most of the questions on the NRA's Action Survey are so loaded that it's impossible to answer them with a simple yes or no. But not the last one: "Will you join the NRA today?"
No. And you can keep your razor-sharp, rosewood-handle pocket knife.