To the editor:
In a year that has seen news services admit major factual distortions, it was unsurprising to read Cox News Service's NRA article in last Sunday's J-W. How an organization whose membership is adding 1,500 people per day can be said to be losing public support escapes me. That rate is increasing as more responsible gun owners join. The article advances a number of fallacies I shall here briefly refute.
In Arizona, four cities proposed local laws barring minors from possessing firearms. But Arizona state law preempted such local actions. NRA supported citizens who supported uniform state law on the matter and worked with Gov. Symington's staff to draft such an ordinance. Under long-existing federal law, it is illegal for a dealer to sell a handgun to a minor anywhere.
Regarding parental negligence laws, 1991 National Safety County data indicate that the five top causes of accidental child deaths in the U.S. are bicycles, drownings, playing with matches or lighters, poisoning and ATVs. Firearm accidents are not even mentioned in the top 23 causes. If parental negligence laws are intended to save children's lives, why not include the greatest risks? I note in passing that NRA has developed a gun awareness-safety curriculum for use by public school elementary teachers; it has no political slant and stresses that children should leave guns alone if they find one.
Regarding waiting periods, proponents of these generally admit when confronted with abundant existing data that they are useless in controlling violent crime. So why add more controls upon those who already obey the law? The NRA has vigorously supported a computerized instant background check program for prospective gun purchasers. Virginia's cost less than $500,000 to set up, peanuts compared to crime costs. A national program of this sort would be valuable in crime control and would at once gain support NRA's over 3 million members.
Finally, assault rifles. A letter to the Journal of the American Medical Assn., from the chief medical examiner (criminal investigation) Bexar Co., Texas (10th largest U.S. metro area) stated that data from five years (831 homicide, 641 suicide investigations) showed only two involved assault rifles. Of 13,190 firearms seized over 7.5 years, "24 were assault weapons." A major crime problem? No. FBI data indicate other areas show similar trends.
Crime control? Definitely! But sweeping gun control simply does not equal crime control.
George R. Pisani