Hillary wrong to take on NRA

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Hillary Clinton made clear in the first Democratic Party presidential debate that she’s ready to take on the NRA. “This has gone on too long, and it’s time the entire country stood up against the NRA,” she declared. If you believe the level of gun violence in America is unacceptable, this was music to your ears. Clinton is leading the charge against the NRA, and that’s a good thing, right?

Maybe not. Clinton erred by attacking the NRA when she should have focused on the issue of gun violence. In doing so she poked a sharp stick at a very big, combative bear that has lots of money. Now that bear is bellowing, and the fight is on.

Clinton lost sight of the real issue and has engaged in a personal fight with the NRA. Yes, it’s easy to say the NRA is wrongheaded on the positions it takes, but the NRA isn’t the issue. Gun violence is the issue. The NRA is just a vocal opponent.

When you personalize an issue, two bad things happen: your message gets lost, and the people on the other side of the issue respond emotionally. Clinton talked about gun control and a gun buy-back program that Australia put in place in the late 1990s. What did the NRA hear? “Hillary Clinton supports Australia-style gun confiscation.” She never said anything about confiscating guns, and I can’t imagine how guns could ever be confiscated in America, but confiscation is what the NRA heard, and the threat of gun confiscation is the message the NRA is spreading.

What happens now?  Both sides will be talking at each other. The language will likely get more inflammatory and degenerate into more personal attacks.  No meaningful conversation will take place. We’ve had very little meaningful conversation to date about guns, and Clinton’s approach almost guarantees there will be none in the future.    

Clinton had the cart in front of the horse. She talked about a remedy, gun control, without first articulating what’s behind all the gun violence we have in American. It’s likely she doesn’t know. We have so many different type of gun violence—serial killings, domestic shootings, kids being shot accidentally—and each type calls for a different set of measures. Still, Clinton talked about gun control—a broad term that means different things to different people—as a cure-all for gun deaths, which causes the NRA to shriek about the Second Amendment being under attack.

No one has ever accused the NRA of being reasonable, and perhaps the NRA never will be, but what good does it do to attack the NRA? The goal isn’t to dismantle the NRA but to begin a national discussion about how we can reduce the number of guns deaths, which is hard to do when the gun grabbers and gun nuts (terms coined by Adam Winkler, author of  “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America”) are yelling at each other.

Even if the NRA’s leadership never yields to reason, a number of gun owners might. Why risk losing their support by inciting the NRA and empowering it to message the public with doomsday talk that might persuades otherwise reasonable gun owners to side with the NRA.

There’s a second error with Clinton’s approach. It dismisses the concerns gun owners have about gun rights and personal safety, things that gun grabbers find hard to understand, if they ever make the effort to do so. But understanding those concerns is a necessary step in effecting change.

Stephen R. Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” suggests that we “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  Only when both sides understand and respect each other’s concerns can we move toward common ground.  Attacking a person who has a different point of view never results in progress.

But maybe Clinton isn’t really interested in reducing violence.  Targeting the NRA might be just a strategy in distancing herself from her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, who seems less inclined to see guns as a problem. Maybe Clinton was just trying to rally the gun grabbers for their votes. She wouldn’t do that, would she?

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Jack D’Aurora writes for


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  1. John  October 26, 2015

    I am not so sure she is ready, or willing, to take on the NRA. Unfortunately her comments are more about generating political buzz and capturing the media’s attention than anything else. Most especially in light of the recent string of gun incidents and massacres.

    •  October 26, 2015

      Imagine that, a politician making statements only for the political buzz they might generate. Shocking!

      • John  October 26, 2015

        When I was in school, I was taught that if something works, you should keep doing it. Candidate Clinton must have learned this too. As a matter of fact, most candidates know the media will bite – hook, line & sinker, as they did with her comments during the debate. The fact that candidates attempt to distill complex issues with simple answers is alarming. A long time ago the 20 second sound bite became more important than the correct solution, and that is indeed why we have not made progress on significant issues like gun violence, immigration reform, health care, etc. etc.

  2. Paul  October 26, 2015

    Too often Hilary gets her shoe (heels, foot and all) caught in her mouth before she knows what might come out. To often gun control become THE issue and the cause of the violent crime is lost in the argument.
    Also too often when the criminal is prosecuted the sentence is reduced in court and the criminal goes free to commit the crime again. It is very often heard that the criminal is freed to commit the same crime repeatedly. Yet it is seldom heard (if ever) the court system is to blame.
    Taking away the rights of a law abiding individual to own and use weapons to protect his home and family will only open the door for criminals to continue committing crimes against unarmed citizens. There are articles written about someone defending themselves in an attempt of a crime but unfortunately those articles are lost in the basement of the newspaper or newsroom. Mainstream media has blinders on and only write or report on what they are told is “newsworthy”.
    These comments are not new. They are personal comments that come from someone who is fed up with what our country has become. It is sad. Let us continue to PRAY for some kind of solution to our problems. “In God we trust”!
    Thanks Jack for your comments and thought provoking questions and most of all, providing an avenue for comments that would be otherwise lost in any other type of media.

    •  October 26, 2015

      I haven’t done any research concerning criminal sentences being reduced and how that impacts the gun violence issue, and I haven’t come across it in all the reading I’ve done, so I can’t address this point.

      The bigger issue is your concern about “taking way the rights of a law abiding individual to own and use weapons.” I’m not suggesting anything of that sort. Don’t you think we can put measures in place to reduce gun deaths without taking away gun rights? I do.

  3. David Wood  October 26, 2015

    Well thought out article.

    Clinton is playing to her base. She has already said the Republicans are in the same class as Islamic terrorists. She and our President really believe it.

    What are the root causes of gun violence? Mental illness, Violent culture/ Media, Fear that the law is more on the side of the criminals. The police are backing off violent situations for fear of losing their jobs and pensions if they overreact. None of this is going to change if we confiscate guns.

    As a society we don’t want to make the investment to treat mental illness. The cost of not providing help is staggering. We could take away the guns but a person who is mentally ill can build a bomb, use a car, a knife. There are a lot of ways to kill people in mass. All one has to do is google to find bomb making instructions. ( No I have not done this but hear that people could)

    My wife and I are stunned at some of the shows on television. The violence on some shows is just stunning. It seems like shows such as CSI and criminal minds go out of their way to create sicker and sicker shows to keep their audience captivated. You have to believe this has an affect on people.

    By the time many people call the police it is too late. When the police try to be proactive the public scream that their rights are being violated. The mayor of NYC has ended stop and frisk. The crime rate in lower income neighborhoods is soaring.

    A few solutions might be: More money for mental health programs, clean up TV, provide more support for police, and put criminals behind bars for extended time for using a gun in a crime. Sadly none of this will happen.


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