Ten years ago I first began receiving pesky junk mailings from AARP, the mega-senior’s organization, soliciting me to join. Before doing so, I thought I should research this powerful special interest group and see what their official position was on issues important to me.
First and foremost was the issue of gun ownership. Did you know that AARP wants to severely restrict the rights of its members to own guns?
What is AARP, exactly? Founded in 1958, AARP is a 501c4 nonprofit organization that ostensibly lobbies for seniors by providing information, advocacy, and services. With some 38 million members and several affiliates, it is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in America and a huge insurance broker, among other things.
According to its 2015 consolidated financial statements, AARP’s largest sources of income were royalties for the rights to use AARP’s intellectual property (name, logo, etc.). These were paid by commercial providers of products, services and discounts available to AARP members ($838,649,000); membership dues ($295,180,000); and advertisements placed in its publications ($149,604,000).
Back To Firearms
Here’s what is says on AARP’s website:
“Congress should eliminate gaps in and strengthen enforcement of the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act and other federal gun laws. States should enact legislation to eliminate gaps in and strengthen enforcement of federal and state gun laws, particularly with regard to possession by juveniles, convicted domestic abusers and those under domestic violence restraining orders.”
For those unfamiliar, it is more commonly called the Brady Act. It’s an act of Congress that mandated federal background checks on firearms purchasers. It also mandated a five-day waiting period on purchases until the NCIS system was implemented in 1998.
The original legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY) in March 1991. It was never brought to a vote. The bill was reintroduced by Rep. Schumer on Feb. 22, 1993 and the final version passed on Nov. 11, 1993. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on Nov. 30, 1993, going into effect on Feb. 28, 1994.
This is the same rhetoric AARP supported 10 years ago, when I first contacted the group about its gun policies.
So once again, I called their offices trying to speak with someone who could clarify their position for me and — as it was a decade ago — never received a call back. So I emailed them and identified myself as a member of the press seeking comment. After a while, I got a response from someone in “Member Services.”
Here it is:
“Thank you for contacting AARP headquarters on the issue of state and federal gun policies. This is a difficult subject for people to discuss without misunderstanding. Even though you may not agree with AARP’s objectives on this one issue, I hope you find our work toward prescription drug coverage in Medicare, for example, and many other important issues worthy of your continued support. At this time, the Board of Directors has recently restated AARP policy to continue to support careful measures to restrict the availability of guns to certain populations. Yet, our policy does not preclude responsible citizens who are educated in gun safety from gun ownership.
“However, respected research continues to indicate that the use of firearms in assaults and robbery — particularly handguns — is directly linked to the high death rate from interpersonal violence in the USA compared with other industrialized countries. The prevalence of random violence featuring handguns in some neighborhoods has resulted in numbers of older people becoming virtual prisoners in their homes. Increasingly, families are suffering the loss of children and grandchildren who are the victims of violent crimes and senseless shootings.
“While registration requirements do not eliminate criminal or psychotic misuse of handguns, such requirements reduce the availability of guns, just as laws do not eliminate but do reduce the availability of illegal narcotics. Reduced availability to inappropriate users means lives saved. While you may disagree with the Board on this particular policy, we hope that many other issues, objectives, and services of AARP so beneficial to older Americans encourage you to remain or become a valued member of the association.”
Dude! This was an awesome job of misdirection. What they were saying, in essence, was this: “You old folks are too senile to be trusted with firearms in your own homes. We also pick and choose the research we cite on this issue. Then we try and use fancy words and sentences to whitewash the real story and confuse you. We hope you’ll realize that we can get you geezers a lot of discounts on stuff, most of which you don’t need or want. We hope that this will help blind you from diving deep into the left-wing policies of our Board of Directors.”
Gun Ownership By The Numbers
And talk about a misinterpretation of statistics to support a policy of restricted private gun ownership. There’s no mention of the bazillion laws already on the books written to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons. No mention that violent crime drops dramatically in states where concealed carry laws occur. No mention that a high percentage of juvenile gunshot victims are injured by inner-city gangbangers, often in turf wars over drugs.
There’s no mention of readily available statistics from places like England where handguns were banned in 1996. Yet in the years since the ban, gun crimes have risen 40 percent. The country now has the distinction of leading the U.S. in robberies and aggravated assaults by a wide margin. It is also rapidly catching up in murders and rapes.
The truth is that gun murders have plunged in the United States. According to a recently released study from the Pew Research Center the rates are lowest for older Americans. In 2010, the rate of firearm homicides was 8 per million for people 65 and older (down from 14 per million in 1993) and 23 per million for people ages 41-64 (down from 42 per million in 1993).The firearm-homicide rate for all ages was 36 per million, still a lot better than the peak of 70 per million in 1993.
Older Americans, the study shows, are also the least likely to be victimized in non-fatal violent crimes. Americans 65 and older made up 15 percent of the 12-and-older population in 2011. That age group had only a 3 percent victimization rate. The Pew Center notes that its own surveys show 56 percent of the public – and 61 percent of Americans 50 and older – think gun crime rates are higher now than they were two decades ago, even though the opposite is true.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of other people telling me I am not smart enough or trustworthy enough or safe enough to own firearms. As has been the case for decades, an organization as large as AARP officially will call for private gun ownership restrictions based on faulty logic and either ignorance or misinterpretation of the data. You can be sure when they make their recommendations to voters, the issue of gun control will be considered.
If this bothers you as it bothers me, I urge you to contact AARP. Let it know your opinions and concerns, especially if you are a member. They are reached at (800) 424-3410; www.aarp.org. When I cancelled my membership back in 2006, they knew exactly how I felt.
How do you feel about this issue? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.