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Judith Bruder: Why hunters must continue to speak out

A gunman armed with automatic assault weapons shoots down his mother, then goes to school and shoots an entire elementary school class — little children, those are — and an assortment of staff. Just casually. Shoot a principal here, a teacher there.

This massacre would not have been possible without free and unlimited access to automatic weapons. At worst, a shooter armed with a handgun could kill six people. Two guns, maybe 12 people. But more than 30 at a blast? No, it takes automatic weapons to make such deadly rain.

When any kind of proposal is made to ban assault weapons, however, it is doomed. Usually the person making the proposal, usually a politician, is doomed as well. Why?

Because of the National Rifle Association, which has a public persona of protecting the rights and interests of hunters, but in fact protects the rights and interests of armament makers. Real-life hunters have children too. Responsible hunters are careful about the rights and interests of fellow hunters, and of their children and even of the animals they hunt. They cull populations, not decimate them.

So why does everyone bow down before the NRA? Because — I hate to say this, but it’s demonstrated by our actions — we worship them. What you bow down to, is what you worship. The NRA has become our God, and God help our country when we worship the likes of it.

Where is the outrage? The outrage of that huge portion of our citizenry who claim to follow and worship Jesus? Jesus chastised those who threatened the little children. Send them to me, He said. I love them. Where is their outrage?

Where is the outrage of our republic, which boasts of its morals, its superiority, its courage, its supremacy among nations? Where is the humility to acknowledge our mass failure to assert proper ethics and concern for our fellow citizens, young and old? Outrage and humility are missing in action.

Where is our shame that in this nation, founded to assure all its citizens “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” we are not even able to assure our fellow citizens the most elementary of those rights, the freedom simply to live?

How much blood is enough? I cannot praise enough the courage of Conway hunter and sportsman Nelson Shifflett’s guest column, which appeared on the page Thursday and titled, “A hunter’s view: We have too many guns.”

Here is the conclusion of his column, if you missed it: “It is time for hunters, target shooters, law enforcement and rural dwellers who use firearms to protect property and livestock to acknowledge that blame for the deaths of innocent children is shared by the NRA, with its symbiotic relationship with gun manufacturers, and by politicians who put ambitions ahead of our national interests and citizen safety.

“To those whose lives have been altered by the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary and to every person affected by gun violence, please accept my apology. I have been silent too long.”

Yes, Mr. Shifflett, you have been silent too long, you and your fellow sportsmen. But your apology is clear and brave. We must hope that it will begin an overdue process of reclaiming our freedom from fear and our rational senses.

Only you and your fellow NRA members have that power. At minimum, support a ban on assault weapons. I’ve been speaking out on this since I was in college, and I’m 78 now! But my words come from the outside and lack power. Yours have the ring of authority.

This is actually one time when I say with a whole heart, “Stick to your guns!”

Judith Bruder lives in Northampton.

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