Fayetteville, AR –-(Ammoland.com)- Alyssa Milano, Alec Baldwin, and Amy Schumer, among other celebrities, have joined with the anti-gun Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students to form a new group that they’re calling the No Rifle Association Initiative to push for new gun control. The announcement of the organization came with an open letter to Wayne LaPierre, accusing him specifically and the NRA by implication of lying. Unsurprisingly, there are multiple problems here.
To start with, the letter calling LaPierre a liar itself makes claims that are false or unsupported. Readers are told that laws against straw purchases were not violated by the shooters at Columbine High School since the guns in question were bought from a private seller at a gun show. According to the ATF, a straw purchase occurs when someone buys a gun from a licensed dealer, identifying himself or herself as the actual buyer on the Form 4473, while in fact buying for someone else. This is the case without regard to the location at which the sale occurs, gun show or otherwise. Private sellers cannot access the NICS themselves, but they are only allowed to make such sales if they do not have reason to believe that the buyer is a prohibited person. The Columbine shooters were underage at the time that they took possession of the guns they used in the massacre, and the two sellers who provided them those guns received prison sentences for that crime, along with the crime of possessing unlicensed short-barreled shotguns.
The letter goes on to accuse LaPierre of lying about the NRA’s position being that guns should be kept out of schools. The assertion behind that claim is that a person or organization is not allowed to evolve on a topic. To say that the NRA or LaPierre lied at the time of the Columbine shooting would require evidence that they secretly supported guns in schools, not that they came to a new position at some later date.
This is followed up by the statement that “you lied, and you purchased politicians, and you fought every single basic gun reform measure that might have saved lives. And you did it because you and the gun manufacturers that fund you value money over lives.”
Note the word, might, there. “Could” is also used. These claims are offered without proof, and I’ll invoke Hitchens’s Razor here and say that anything asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. I’ll even go one better by pointing out that the data are unclear at best as to whether bans on so-called assault weapons have any effect on mass shootings.
The rest of the letter dwells on violence in black communities—without explaining how the NRA is at fault, other than once again saying that the organization opposes control measures that are not shown to work—and on a complaint that the NRA held a planned convention in Denver two weeks after the Columbine shooting. No amount of muddled thinking is too much, so long as we feel the correct way about guns.
That’s to be expected, perhaps, given the degree to which emotion is the driving force of film and television. It’s easy here to accuse actors of hypocrisy since Hollywood uses—and all too often abuses—firearms on screen, though Milano and Schumer have mostly left them alone. Alec Baldwin has played armed characters more often, and I don’t recall Jack Ryan sending a harshly worded letter to stop the Russian intelligence agent on board the Red October. Malcolm Reynolds is a fast talker, but he could emphasize his words when needed, but I’m sorry to say that Nathan Fillion has joined the anti-gun bandwagon.
But movies are not real life, and actors are generating imagined worlds. They are not obliged to be in their own lives the characters they play in stories. And I won’t stop watching their work—when it’s worth my time. I can’t, for example, recall having ever seen Milano in anything. Having said that, there is a corollary. In the same way that movies aren’t real, neither is a celebrity.
Acting is a skill, but the outsized attention that some actors receive is the product of fantasy. I do not wish to denigrate storytelling, especially if any producers would like to put my novels on the big screen. What I am saying is that we have to take arguments on their own merits, not on the basis of who is making them. The names Milano, Baldwin, and Schumer add nothing to the case for or against gun rights and gun control if we are committed to facts and logic.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.