NRA Ad Tries To Be Reasonable, But Only Highlights Hypocrisy On Background Checks, Mental Illness

 @ashleyportero
on February 13 2013 12:50 PM
Handguns 2012 Las Vegas 2
Sig Sauer handguns are displayed during the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Reuters

The National Rifle Association has a new strategy in its latest anti-gun control advertisement: Seem to appeal to reason.

Shortly after debuting a negative and widely panned anti-gun control advertisement that featured President Barack Obama’s daughters, the nation’s leading pro-gun lobby on Tuesday released a new online ad that makes several policy-based arguments against making new firearm restrictions. Or, at least it tried.

The spot centers on the idea that the Obama administration is planning to confiscate all of America's assault weapons, based on an internal Justice Department memo written last month that reportedly concluded that an assault weapons ban will not effectively reduce gun violence without mandatory buybacks.

“Mandatory gun buybacks,” says Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s lobbying division. “That’s government confiscation of legal firearms, owned by honest citizens.”

The Justice Department has yet to authenticate the document in question. While, statistically, it is clear that assault weapons are responsible for far fewer deaths than handguns, Democrats and other supporters of an assault weapons ban argue those military-grade firearms are clearly intended to kill, and are not necessary for hunting or home protection.

Lawmakers are not currently calling for mandatory buybacks. However, a revised assault weapons ban proposed last month by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would allow states to create a voluntary buy-back program for grandfathered assault weapons -- those exempted from the new law -- and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The NRA also argued that requiring universal criminal background checks for gun purchases would be equally ineffective because it would require the creation of a gun registration database, which Cox called “an illegal abuse of privacy and freedom unprecedented in our history.”

As recently as 1999, the NRA was a strong supporter of universal background checks, one of the few gun control policies that has traditionally had strong bipartisan support.

The gun lobby, in the wake of a year that saw a series of mass shootings that ended with the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., has been under significant pressure to address the nation’s epidemic of gun violence. But the group has consistently argued that creating new gun regulations, in addition to being futile, is an enormous violation of Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

To increase public safety, the NRA says there should be more -- not less -- access to firearms. The group has officially advanced the idea of implementing armed guards in schools across the nation, with some even saying teachers should be trained to use firearms in the event of a Newtown-style attack.

Although the NRA says the government should focus on keeping the mentally ill away from firearms, the gun lobby hasn’t always felt that way. Back in 2007, after the Virginia Tech shootings -- still the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history -- pro gun groups lobbied to narrow the range of who could be considered a “mental defective” under the National Instant Check System (NCIS) Improvement Amendments Act of 2007.

It also created a “Relief from Disabilities” program that allows the mentally ill to re-establish their mental health and purchase firearms again if they “will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.” And taxpayers get to foot the bill -- a provision of the law requires the federal government to pay “a reasonable attorney’s fee” should a person successfully petition to have his or her rights reinstated.

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