Dear Wayne LaPierre:
Perhaps I should have written this open letter to the President of the National Rifle Association, David Keene. But presidents seem to come and go at the NRA; you, as Executive Vice President, seem a pretty consistent face in the organization. So, this open letter is addressed to you.
My children and I enjoy movies. We watch a lot of them together at home, but we really enjoy the experience of a theater. The big screen, digital audio, the smell of popcorn, sharing the experience with a large community of people -- that's what going to the movies is all about. On this rainy Labor Day we decided going to the movies sounded better than sitting around bored at home, so we headed downtown for a matinee of The Odd Life of Timothy Green. It was while standing in life for the tickets that it happened.
"I'm nervous, Daddy." My 11-year-old daughter's comment was so outside the norm for the context -- we were, after all, standing in line for a PG-rated flick -- that it didn't register clearly at first with me.
"What," I asked, focused on finding my wallet so I could pay for the tickets.
"I'm scared. I'm so scared I'm shaking."
I signed the receipt at the window, then pulled her to the side so we could talk. "I don't understand, what is making you feel scared?"
"You, know," and she paused, and looked at the ground . . . "What happened in Colorado at the Batman movie. Do you think that could happen here? Today? To us?"
I realized this was the first time she's been inside a movie theater since that tragic July shooting at the Colorado opening of The Dark Knight Rises. She was scared. I grabbed her and held her close, and reassured her.
"No, honey, it couldn't happen here. And always remember: if something bad like that happens, I'll always protect you." But even as I said those words I knew they weren't true. It can happen anywhere, at any time. It's happened once, and it will happen again. And when it does, people will be helpless to protect themselves.
The NRA, Mr. LaPierre, spends obscene amounts of money lobbying members of congress and other politicians to ensure the interests of the organization are looked after when gun legislation is created. The NRA spent nearly $7 million dollars on elections during the last mid-term, and about $75 million on campaigns during the last two decades. That kind of money buys a lot of favor in D.C., Mr. LaPierre, and influences a lot of votes when it comes to decisions made about gun control.
I'm curious: In a culture that is no longer shocked by nearly 9,000 gun murders each year, and in a society not disturbed for more than a 48 hour news cycle about public shootings that occur in malls, at the workplace, in movie theaters, and at schools, I ask -- Who lobbies for the safety and psychological comfort of my daughter? The rights of American citizens to purchase guns does not supersede the right of my 11-year-old to feel safe -- and be safe -- as she travels about in her home community.
Sure, I know the NRA will continue lobby for broad access to firearms, and it will continue to point the finger of blame at individual criminals who use guns to commit horrific crimes. Many in the American public will continue to blend the Second Amendment with Jesus, and talk about this insane concept called God-given rights.
In the meantime, I'll hold my daughter's hand a little tighter, and tell her more lies about how safe she is on our public streets.