Any minute now, unless fanned by fear and the NRA, the last thoughts about the innocent victims in Newtown, Connecticut, will fade from the public consciousness. Our remarkably short attention span will be seduced by breaking news about the debt ceiling, Tom Cruise's latest romantic and/or sexual interest, or the incredibly fascinating pregnancy of some member of the British royal family. The only citizens who will continue to remember the murdered children and teachers will be their families. And they will be unable ever to forget, for even a minute, as they struggle with unbearable grief.
The rest of us are inclined to move on and stop all this talk about guns and killing. Still, at the risk of disturbing the complacent or upsetting those who are convinced that any mention of guns, short of outright worship of them, is a sign the government's black helicopters are inbound, I want to raise the subject one more time. Not to argue the pros and cons of some baby steps we might take to reduce the adverse impact of some types of weapons, but to suggest that you consider the motivation of those who argue that the solution to any gun problem is to add more guns.
I've mentioned before that I first began firing a weapon long before starting public school. Assisted by my dad, when I was little taller than his knee, I practiced shooting holes in tin cans with a caliber .22 Winchester rifle. Years later I followed a calling that pretty much revolved around firearms. So it was not so strange that I would join the National Rifle Association, drawn primarily by its journal, "The American Rifleman." I ordered from an advertisement in that periodical my first pistol, a beautiful old Army caliber .45, M1917 Colt revolver. As a side benefit of membership, I figured the NRA would always support and protect my interest in firearms.
If you think the primary mission of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA he heads is to protect your gun rights, let me suggest otherwise. The NRA is a huge lobbying organization that operates not for your benefit, but for the benefit and profits of gun manufacturers and retailers of guns, ammunition and firearms accessories. The amount of money contributed yearly to the NRA by major gun manufacturers has grown twice as fast over the past few years as membership dues. Mr. LaPierre is paid between $950,000 and $1,250,000 annually to make sure politicians do nothing to upset this lucrative apple cart.
Unlike food or clothes or automobiles, guns are extremely durable. They can last for generations. The only way for Ruger, Colt, Smith & Wesson, Glock, etc., to prosper, and they have prospered mightily over the past several years, is to have someone create an ever-growing demand for more guns. Thus Wayne LaPierre's goofy assertion that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." And his "plan" to have us put armed security guards in every school.
Certainly some schools have a need for armed security. But just as gun control efforts are not the total solution to the problem, neither are armed guards. In the first place, there are upwards of 100,000 public schools in this country. Paying armed guards, one per school, the modest average of basic pay for police, with no benefits, would cost some $5 billion a year. And only one per school? Columbine had one armed guard, and he was joined by a nearby policeman. They were unable to stop the slaughter.
Each mass shooting tragedy leads to fears, encouraged by the NRA, that the government will increase gun control. Which leads to greater gun sales. And among retail outlets participating in NRA's various support programs, every gun or ammo sale brings a one- or two-dollar donation to the NRA. Just last year, Midway USA, an ammunition company, gave the NRA $1,000,000 through one of these programs.
So when you're trying to decide where the truth lies in the complex and troubling matter of gun control, you might want to use the age-old rule: Follow the money. The trail may meander, but it will ultimately lead you dead-center to the target.
Robert B. Simpson, a 28-year Infantry veteran who retired as a colonel at Fort Benning, is the author of "Through the Dark Waters: Searching for Hope and Courage."