“Crime control” not “gun control” was the message of the National Rifle Association’s Charles Cunningham, who spoke to a standing room only audience in São Paulo Brazil on August 14.
Mr. Cunningham is the director of federal affairs for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Affairs. He was invited to visit Brazil by the Brazilian Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property’s Pro Legitima Defesa anti-gun control campaign.
Before his talk, Mr. Cunningham met to discuss strategy with TFP representatives and members of those organizations the TFP has brought together to form a coalition to more effectively oppose radical disarmament legislation which was first introduced in 1997. Over three hundred people crowded the public lecture at São Paulo’s National Club, to hear Mr. Cunningham speak. Representatives from pro-gun organizations were present at the speakers’ table presided over by His Imperial and Royal Highness Prince Luiz of Orleans-Braganza.
The lecturer impressed the audience with his knowledge and down-to-earth way of presenting his themes to the public. He began by explaining that the gun control issue was “more than just guns, it is about freedom.” He outlined the history of the NRA, which was founded in 1871 as an organization to promote marksmanship and safe gun handling for the public at large. Only in 1968 when gun control legislation threatened owners did the NRA begin its activities in defense of the Second Amendment. The audience was very interested to hear how the organization carries out so many other activities that benefit hunters and marksman both young and old.
Mr. Cunningham stressed how important it is to educate the public about gun issues because many times the media and the opposition take advantage of tragedies and misinformation to further their cause.
“Ignorance and emotion are key issues for us to address with logic and common sense,” he noted. “When we have the time and occasion to explain facts and issues, we prevail.”
Another key point was the fact that pro-gun citizens need to support good gun legislation. “Criminals don’t obey the laws. Gun control legislation only affects law abiding citizens because criminals don’t get permits.” Thus, a big challenge is to show people that law-abiding citizens are different from criminals when discussing legislation. Many times the anti-gun people try to stigmatize gun owners as potential killers.
As in the United States, statistics in Brazil show that the crime rate is lower in areas where the people have less restrictive gun laws. Stressing the crime vs. gun control theme, Mr. Cunningham said he had heard time and time again how the crime rate is the lowest. in the state of Rio Grande do Sul where gun laws are enforced less stringently. He recalled how one of the NRA’s board members once commented: “If guns kill people, then all of my guns are defective because none of them ever killed anyone.”
He concluded by telling the audience not to accept the status quo and be complacent. “Things can change, and will change, but your participation is necessary. You must work to make change to preserve your rights.”