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Child Watch® Column: "What the NRA Doesn’t Want You to Know"

Release Date: March 29, 2013

Marian Wright Edelman

Why is the National Rifle Association so afraid of the truth? There are many misconceptions about guns and gun violence swirling around in Americans’ minds—and in many cases, this misinformation is no accident. For years the NRA has blocked the truth and actively fought against and prevented research in the causes and costs of gun violence because they don’t want Americans to know the truth about guns, how to prevent gun violence, and how to make themselves and their children safer. Why else would they have Congress pull gun injury prevention research funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health? Why have we put up so long with efforts to block all research on a huge public health threat that injures and kills tens of thousands of Americans every year?

As Drs. Arthur Kellermann and Frederick Rivara write in the February 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association article “Silencing the Science on Gun Research:” “What can be done to reduce the number of US residents who die each year from firearms, currently more than 31,000 annually? . . . The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997.” Instead, they note beginning in 1996 pro-gun members of Congress began mounting an all-out effort to eliminate any funding for research connected to gun injury prevention. And as Drs. Kellermann and Rivara explain, this continued refusal to fund any research isn’t just an academic matter: “Injury prevention research can have real and lasting effects. Over the last 20 years, the number of Americans dying in motor vehicle crashes has decreased by 31 percent. Deaths from fires and drowning have been reduced even more, by 38 percent and 52 percent, respectively. This progress was achieved without banning automobiles, swimming pools, or matches. Instead, it came from translating research findings into effective interventions. Given the chance, could researchers achieve similar progress with firearm violence? It will not be possible to find out unless Congress rescinds its moratorium on firearm injury prevention research.”

Why is the NRA afraid of seeking the truth and having citizens make informed decisions about how best to ensure their and their children’s safety? Their concerted campaign to hide the truth and block research is finally facing new scrutiny and opposition. President Obama’s proposed gun safety package would end the freeze on gun injury prevention research although the amounts requested are inadequate. Ignorance is not bliss or sensible or sound policy, and in the case of our national gun violence epidemic ignorance is actually fatal. We need to make decisions based on the truth and counter the NRA misinformation that has been infecting our nation.

It’s time to challenge and deflate NRA misinformation and recognize that it does not speak for most American gun owners or even the majority of its membership. For example, polling data shows that 85 percent of gun owners and 74 percent of NRA members support universal background checks—a policy position the NRA vehemently opposes now.

The NRA argues that background checks don’t work. The reality is that criminal background checks do work and making them universal at the federal level would make them far more effective. Since its implementation in 1994, the Brady Law, which instituted a federal background check requirement for sales through licensed dealers, has denied 2.1 million applications to purchase a firearm. But its impact has been limited by the ability of criminals to access firearms through private sales, since only sales by federally licensed dealers require a background check; unlicensed dealers, including those at gun shows and on the internet and other private sales do not. An analysis by Mayors Against Illegal Guns reveals that states that don’t require background checks for handgun sales at gun shows export guns used to commit crimes 2.5 times more often than states that do. As much as 40 percent of gun sales may be occurring through these private sales—a loophole that common sense and the vast majority of Americans demand we fix.

Another bit of misinformation from the NRA is that universal background checks will lead to a registry of gun owners. The Brady Law explicitly bans the creation of a gun owner registry, and under that law instant criminal background checks have been made on over 100 million gun sales in the last decade without leading to the formation of a gun registry. Here again, misinformation has paralyzed effective gun safety protections. The vast majority of responsible gun owners support background checks because they know that the only people who will be negatively impacted are criminals and those who sell them firearms.

Please do your homework and decide for yourself. Educate yourself on what the NRA wants you to believe by reading the Children’s Defense Fund’s updated fact sheet “The Truth About Guns.” During this Easter recess, go to your members of Congress’ town hall meetings and let your members know that the time to be held hostage to the NRA lobby is over. Let’s break the NRA lock on the research door to learn and share the truth about the human, economic and public safety costs of gun violence in our nation. I believe the truth will set us free.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

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Here's what others have said:

Submitted by Missouri Sandy at: April 4, 2013
You are SO correct. Criminals will ALWAYS be able to get firearms. Regardless of the multitude of laws you may want to pass, criminals will ALWAYS have access to guns. And even if in your delusional world this would stop the "bad guy" from getting guns, do you really think they won't just make a bomb? You can get the instructions from the internet. So many of you are just in plain old denial of the truth. Stop trying to prevent those of us law abiding, decent citizens from protecting ourselves against those very criminals. Here is a fact for you. Columbine occurred when there was a ban on semi automatic weapons. That is what YOU would call an assault rifle. The law did NOT stop them. Another fact--if teachers were allowed to be armed, it would give the lunatics a reason to pause and rethink entering a school in order to do harm to children. That is just plain old common sense. But then there is very little common sense left in this country these days. And you really need to check your facts and include the truth. Where are our countries highest crime rates? Washington DC and Chicago. Hmmm. Those are exactly the regions that have the strictest gun laws.

Submitted by dhk at: April 2, 2013
This column is full of misinformation, incorrect "statistics", and embellishments, throughout. I suggest that the writer might, at least, get these things sorted out before voicing her opinion. Defaming the NRA, again through mistatement of facts, is reprehensible.

Submitted by blue at: April 2, 2013
Gun deaths are more frequently caused by people with illegal guns. In Mexico guns are illegal and only the criminals have them. Tens of thousands are killed by illegal guns in a country where no one may legally own a gun. Maybe there would be less if deaths if people could defend themselves. That is what you fools are trying to do in America. Only the criminals will have guns and good people will be defenseless. We will also have no protection against a government gone bad and with the current administration constantly trying to bypass the Constitution, that is a distinct possiblity.

Submitted by Pat at: April 1, 2013
Thanks for what you're doing

Submitted by Don Pratt at: March 31, 2013
A "happening" in the capitol of Kentucky should be repeated for media and the public EVERYWHERE, especially at the US House and Senate, NRA headquarters and various gun manufacturers and sales locations! Small children pulled up to Kentucky's capitol got out with report cards and took them and the "F" on the cards to the governor. It was the issue of education but this would apply here, especially with children of all ages from the areas of the country where gun violence has made such loud national news as well as the poor neighborhoods where children have to hide. Don Pratt, activist, Lexington, KY at

Submitted by Hoppy at: March 31, 2013
Criminals don't obey laws-never have, never will. Background checks have decreased gun sales to those not deemed "safe" to own one. Mental issues have been the main factor in the somewhat recent incidents-not criminals. Put the focus on helping the mentally disturbed & you will curb similar incidents. Responsible gun owners are just that-responsible. You are wrong about the compilation of a owners registry-Firearm Agencie(s) have visiting gun dealers & copying records of sale. In closing, get your facts straight,focus on the real issue of gun violence in this country (mental health) & leave the responsible gun owners alone.

Submitted by Judy at: March 30, 2013
Not enough people know about this.....we need to share it.

Submitted by Terry at: March 30, 2013
While I sympathize with and share your desire to reduce crime and violence, especially against children, I must point out your obvious flaw, false reasoning and misguided wishful thinking when you blame the NRA, guns, 2nd Amendment, and tens of millions of law abiding citizen gun owners for the murders committed by criminals, sociopaths and psychopaths using 'tools' including guns, but also including knives, clubs, bricks, screwdrivers, hammers, fists, vehicles, poisons, ropes, etc. It is not a silly cliche to say that "guns do not kill people; criminals kill people, sometimes using guns". Guns are just tools, used for good by most law abiding citizens, police and military, and for evil by evil people. 'Gun laws' apply only to, and are obeyed only by, people who don't break the law and murder people. By definition, criminals don't obey the laws, including those 'gun laws' you unwisely promote. They don't go through background checks to buy a gun, only law abiding people do. They don't turn in their guns just because the law says they should, only law abiding people do. They don't leave their guns in the car when they see a 'no guns allowed' sign in the window of the Aurora theater, or Sandy Hook elementary school, only law abiding people do [who get murdered because of having done so]. They DO treat such 'gun free zones' as free fire killing zones, knowing that the 'no gun' signs and laws are being obeyed only by their prospective unarmed victims. To be a little sarcastic to make a point, if we all agree that unjustly killing someone is immoral and wrong, then I guess we should call it murder and make it a crime and illegal. Uh, wait, we already did. Did that law stop murder from happening? No. It merely provides us with a mechanism to punish the law breaker [criminal] after the fact. We already have thousands of multiple overlapping laws on the books making illegal all the violence and crimes that you and I abhor. The problem is NOT with guns, or gun violence, or knives, or clubs, or other tools, all of which we could try to outlaw, it is with criminals, sociopaths and psychopaths using guns and other tools and weapons to hurt people. However, our criminal justice system and our mental health systems are revolving door 'jokes', letting repeat violent offenders out onto the streets almost before the judge and lawyers leave the courtroom. Immodestly, I should know, I am an attorney in that system, and it is a disastrous danger to society. There is no 'swift and sure' punishment, and thus no deterrent against violent crime. Since the justice system and laws do not actually prevent violence and crime, should we disarm ourselves "for the children" and rely on police to protect us? Really?? No. The police are not charged or responsible for protecting you or me. They are there to gather the evidence, write reports and try to catch the criminal after the crime has been committed, putting the few caught back into that 'revolving door system' - again and again. The reality is that, "when every second counts, help from 911 is only minutes away". The reality is also that, "a gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone". You and I are each ultimately responsible for our own lives and the protection of ourselves, our families and our children. If you are the slightest bit interested in the truth of gun 'use', you can readily find the facts: at least five crimes are prevented, deterred and defended by citizens with their own guns, for every crime committed. The 'anti-gun' zealots willfully ignore and lie about that truth. The only conclusion a sane and rational analysis leads to is that we live now in a society victimized by criminals, sociopaths and psychopaths using 'tools', and that our only defense against them is 'self defense'. The most effective tool for that purpose is a firearm, readily available when needed in the home, office or street, used safely and responsibly. That self defense is allowed by the Concealed Carry Laws in some 40 or so states now, initially each time over the howling hysterical objections of willfully uninformed people claiming crime and violence would increase, there would be 'blood running in the streets', and there would be 'shootouts at every traffic collision'. Back to that pesky truth thing again: every state that has liberalized their Concealed Carry Laws has seen an immediate, dramatic and permanent decline in violent crime. Criminals, sociopaths and psychopaths may be crazy, but the aren't totally stupid. When they understand that anyone on the sidewalk or in their homes might legally have a firearm accessible, they go elsewhere to commit their crimes, like to Aurora or Sandy Hook. Finally, the truth most applicable to your position is that the FBI acknowledges that its data and statistics clearly show that the 'gun prohibition laws' and so called 'assault weapon laws' in this country have had absolutely no positive effect on reducing crime, gun or otherwise. In fact, quite the opposite. The cities and states with the highest gun crime rates, and rates of crime increase, are the very places that most onerously ban citizens' right to own or use guns. The prime examples are Chicago and Washington DC's complete ban on private ownership and use of guns, resulting in them being the 'murder capitals' of the country. Remember, those gun laws are obeyed only by the 'law abiding', not by the criminals you seek to control. If you sincerely wish to reduce and prevent crimes and violence against children and others, then work to reform and improve the justice system so that it keeps criminals off the streets, where they can't harm you and me, and our children. And, leave me and my firearms alone, so I can protect by children myself. Expectantly, and willing to rationally discuss the problems and solutions, Terry Nelson CA

Submitted by defanged optomist at: March 30, 2013
Money is still the monster that rules too many of our alleged representatives. The Supreme Court only made matters worse and causes me to seriously question their lop-sided judgement?

Submitted by Jacqui at: March 30, 2013
It's all here...why do we persist in the NRA follies?

Submitted by SoPo John at: March 30, 2013
It's time to reject the gun the NRA is holding to our heads and join the rest of the civilized world in abandoning the notion that only an armed citizenry--in fact, often the most alienated portion of it--makes us safe and "free." I envision an enlightened America in which, ordinary citizens having abandoned their weapons, even the police will be able to do their enforcing with billy clubs instead of revolvers.

Submitted by taabi at: March 30, 2013
Our "RIGHTS" are not subject to legislation or they are not rights. Sad thing is this column does not mention that gun violence has gone down 49% in the last 20 years according to the official FBI crime statistics. If we really want to protect the children we shold stop the big pharma companies as death resulting from DRs is the numjber one cause of death in this country and big Pharma is the second leading cause of death in this country. Car aqccidents kill more people than guns do, bats and hammers kill more people than guns do. FBI stats show that guns represent less than 10% of the deaths in this country. So if we really want to have less death we should curb Dr.s and big pharma first as they are responsible for more death than all other causes together.

Submitted by Snopia at: March 30, 2013
Thank you so very much for writing this article. I need to educate myself more on the issue of gun control. My stance has always been that we don't need them, but god only knows how to make gun rights people see past the barrel of their rifles.

Submitted by Jas at: March 29, 2013
Why are you so afraid of others comments? I have tried leaving some and/or reading others and IT NEVER happens.

Submitted by shooter at: March 29, 2013
Good to know

Submitted by Anonymous at: March 29, 2013

Submitted by Anonymous at: March 29, 2013

Submitted by Kay at: March 29, 2013
Excellent column, although a tad long. What American citizens need to know is that the NRA does NOT represent gun owners; it represents gun MANUFACTURERS that wish to sell lethal weapons to both Americans and everyone else who can afford them. It's the bottom line, as usual.

Submitted by Mr. Dale at: March 29, 2013
All I do understand is that criminals will never obay laws and the second ammendment was to protect us from an oppresive Government. If you can't defened yourself who will.

Submitted by marcs at: March 29, 2013
it past due to pass all of the presidents gun laws let's just do it and make this country safe the children safe I do not care about the NRA they are full of it, and no hunter is impacted by the new laws people do not need asault weapons no one does thank you