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Brothers in arms part ways over gun checks

T. Nugent

I’m a member of the National Rifle Association and former Army officer. I’m also Ted Nugent’s older brother.

Ted and I have hunted together for decades, and we legally own a large number of guns. We both understand that guns constitute deadly force, so safety is foremost in our minds.

And I agree with Ted that our constitutional right to bear arms should not be undermined. But – and here is where I part ways with my brother – not everyone is qualified to own a gun, so expanded background checks should be a legislative priority.

I believe strongly that expanding and improving mandatory background checks will keep a lot of people who aren’t entitled to Second Amendment rights from having easy access to guns. Why would responsible gun owners want to protect people who threaten not only our safety but our gun rights?

Convicted felons, people with restraining orders against them and those with a history of mental illness can still find ways to purchase weapons. No one should stand for this.

The tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and the gun violence that claims on average eight children per day in the United States, require us to think differently about what the Second Amendment really means.

In addition to the holes in the gun-buying process, there are other major causes of gun violence: perpetrators who are not prosecuted or put back on the streets through bail; or those who serve a minor sentence, are released and become repeat offenders.

Enhanced background checks need not threaten the Second Amendment. Why are the NRA and elected officials who support it so slow to realize this? Do they fear a slippery slope toward greater restrictions? If they don’t want to burden a flawed system, they should be part of fixing it.

Reducing gun violence and protecting the Second Amendment is not an either-or idea. I challenge the NRA’s leadership to partner with groups such as Evolve, which I recently joined, that seek to protect gun rights while creating a culture of responsibility, safe gun use and prudent access.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, excels at creating a strident stand-and-fight mentality that does not speak for the majority of gun owners. Ted and I have talked about these matters over the years, but more often lately. I concede that he is right on some points; in some instances, cities and states with less-strict gun laws have less violent crime. But that does not argue for arming America.

I have a 9-year-old son and two 6-year-old grandsons. Any of them could have been the victims of our recent gun tragedies – and still could become victims if we don’t do something. We must act, not tomorrow, not the next day. End gun violence now, and start with limiting the purchase of firearms to those who really have the right.

Let’s see whether the NRA and its new leaders step up and do what is right. If not, it will get done without them. We all have a role here, especially to protect our children. Who is going to be the voice for them?

This requires nothing less than a major culture shift. It’s been done before. We just have to do it again.

Jeffrey Nugent, former president and chief executive of Revlon and Neutrogena, wrote this for the Washington Post.